Global Politics

US-Mexico relationship off to a shaky start in the Trump era

us-mexico border

From the first day of his campaign for president, Donald Trump made border security with Mexico a signature issue.

During the course of his campaign, he brought up the the idea of mass deportations of undocumented immigrants, beefing up border security and, most notably, building a massive border wall (and having Mexico pay for it).

He also talked about changing the US relationship with Mexico on trade, calling for an end to North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and he pledged to make it harder for American companies to relocate across the border so they could manufacture goods with cheaper labor.

Since becoming president, Trump has maintained his call for building a wall, although the timeline for that is ever shifting. And as Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto has repeatedly refused to pay for the wall, Trump says he's now looking into other ways to get Mexico to pay, such as through a possible border tax. In the meantime, he has asked Congress to earmark funds for a wall, but the 2017 bipartisan budget bill contained no such allocation

On immigration, the first few months of the Trump presidency has brought a sharp decline in border apprehensions, but also a sharp uptick in immigration arrests. An executive order Trump signed in on Jan. 25 broadens the groups of undocumented immigrants prioritized for deportation and now those in the US with relatively minor offenses, such as the unauthorized use of food stamps, could be deported. 

On NAFTA, Trump has moderated his stance. After an April 26 phone call with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Trump said he now is in favor of renogotiating the deal, rather than terminating it.

Still the relationship with Mexico remains tenuous. Next year the country will be have its presidential election and one of the leading candidates, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is running on an anti-Trump platform. Experts like Doris Meissner of the Migration Policy Institute say strong rhetoric on both sides may impede important work that's already started on issues such as border securtity, curtailing drug trafficking and stemming the flow of weapons into Mexico.

Meissner will be a part of group of panelists in both DC and Mexico City who will be participating in America Abroad's bi-national townhall event "Beyond the Border: The Future of US-Mexico Relations," which will be streamed live today, May 11. Joshua Johnson, host of the public radio program 1A, will be leading the discussion. In addition to Meissner, the DC panelists include Peter Skerry of Boston College and Jose Cardenas from Vision Americas. In Mexico City, the panelists will be Rodrigo Cervantes, Mexico Bureau Chief for KJZZ in Phoenix as well as Monica Serrano of the College of Mexico.

To join the conversation on Twitter, follow the hashtag #BeyondtheBorder or comment on Facebook. Check back here at 7 p.m. ET for a live stream.

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