President Trump said Sunday that he was pulling a DACA deal off the table in negotiations with Democrats and warned Mexico to step up its own efforts to control the flow of people headed north across its territory — or else he will cancel NAFTA.
The president seemed particularly outraged over a caravan of more than 1,000 people from Central America who are traversing Mexico with the aim of showing up on the U.S. border to either sneak into the country or demand asylum.
Mexican authorities have reportedly done nothing to deter the people, who are in their country without authorization.
Mr. Trump was fuming.
“Caravans coming,” he tweeted.
He added: “Mexico is doing very little, if not NOTHING, at stopping people from flowing into Mexico through their Southern Border, and then into the U.S. They laugh at our dumb immigration laws. They must stop the big drug and people flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA. NEED WALL!”
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The caravan organized late last month, weeks after Mr. Trump and senators engaged in a fruitless debate over what to do about some 700,000 illegal immigrants in the U.S. under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals deportation amnesty, and millions of other Dreamers — generally young adult illegal immigrants — who didn’t sign up for DACA.
Mr. Trump had offered a deal to grant a full pathway to citizenship to up to 1.8 million illegal immigrants in exchange for nixing the visa lottery, limiting the chain of family migration that immigrants can sponsor, allocating $25 billion to construct more border fencing and changing U.S. laws to try to make it easier to deport people nabbed at the border.
Democrats balked at that deal. Instead, they wanted a broader number of illegal immigrants to be granted citizenship. They rejected the proposed limits to chain migration and the changes to speed up deportations.
Last month, as Congress worked on a 2018 spending deal, the White House said it floated several other compromises, including three years of wall funding in exchange for three years of protections — though not citizenship — for DACA recipients. Democrats didn’t take that offer.
On Sunday, Mr. Trump said he was done dealing. As he arrived for Easter services at a church in Palm Beach, Florida, the president told reporters that Democrats “blew it.”
“They had a great chance. The Democrats blew it. They had a great, great chance,” he said.
It’s unclear whether Democrats were interested in negotiations. Some analysts say that with major gains expected in Congress in November elections, Democrats appear content to wait and write immigration legislation on their own terms early next year.
Mr. Trump on Sunday also blasted Mexican government officials with whom he has repeatedly clashed over his demand — and their refusal — to pony up for costs of the border wall.
The dispute has derailed several planned meetings between Mr. Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
Mr. Trump in the past has said he would leverage the North American Free Trade Agreement to try to wring more immigration concessions from Mexico, and he said Sunday that was still his plan.
“Mexico has got to help us at the border. If they’re not going to help us at the border, it’s a very sad thing. Mexico has got to help us at the border,” he said outside church on Easter Sunday. “And a lot of people are coming in because they want to take advantage of DACA.”
The caravan is likely to be the next big test.
BuzzFeed, which has been tracking the progress of the caravan, says it was organized by Pueblo Sin Fronteras. The goal is to give migrants from Central America a safer and cheaper option for traversing Mexico than to rely on the cartels that generally control the routes.
Those cartels charge thousands of dollars — an $8,000 tab for getting from Central America to Texas or California isn’t unusual. The journey is also fraught with perils, including beatings and rape for women.
Pueblo Sin Fronteras posted videos on Facebook showing the migrants practicing security protocols. They hope to avoid being targeted by the cartels or others who prey on the hundreds of thousands of people a year making the journey.
“We are strong, we are impatient, we are beautiful and fun and we have dignity, and there are a lot of us,” the group said.
It said it had more than 1,000 Hondurans who are fleeing political uncertainty after a contentious election this year.