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McConnell Lauds Trump’s Mexico Tariff Threat: ‘It Worked’

President Donald Trump with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 26, 2019. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday credited President Trump’s tariff threat with securing a public commitment from Mexico to work toward reducing the flow of asylum-seekers spilling over the southern border.

McConnell said last week that his caucus broadly opposed Trump’s plan to impose a 5 percent tariff on Mexican goods entering the U.S., but appeared to reverse himself Tuesday in light of Mexico’s commitment to deploying roughly 6,000 National Guard troops to the Guatemala border.

“I think the cold, hard reality is, even though almost none of my members were enthusiastic about the prospect of tariffs, you have to give the president credit — it worked,” McConnell told radio host Hugh Hewitt. “The president deserves applause — not condemnation — for the outcome, which has a good chance of solving this crisis at the border.”

After two days of talks, Trump announced Friday night that U.S. negotiators had reached a deal with their Mexican counterparts that would dramatically slow the flow of migrants to the southern border. While no official agreement has yet been released, the deal is said to include a number of novel concessions on the part of Mexico, including the commitment to troop deployments on the Guatemala border and a vow to dramatically increase both migrant arrests and asylum applications. But Mexico has thus far refused U.S. negotiators’ longstanding request that it adopt a “safe third country” policy, which would require that it accept all asylum-seekers traversing its territory en route to the U.S.

Mexican officials did agree to a border-wide expansion of the Migrant Protection Protocol program, which requires that asylum-seekers remain on the Mexican side of the border while their American asylum claims are being processed. The program has resulted in the return of roughly 10,000 asylum-seekers to Mexican border cities.

Mexico has traditionally resisted the expansion of the program since it places the onus of caring for the migrants on Mexican authorities, rather than the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which has struggled in recent months to provide adequate shelter and medical attention to the mass of asylum-seekers who are waiting for their claims to be adjudicated.

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