Donald J. Trump has made a mess of things in relations with Mexico, both on the campaign trail and in the White House. His insistence that our neighbor pay for a big beautiful wall prompted Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to cancel a scheduled trip to Washington.

The bullying has since continued, with President Trump threatening to impose a 20% tariff on cars and all Mexican-made goods entering the United States. That’s bad news for tequila-lovers, but officials there are particularly concerned over high-ticket items. In jeopardy would be the renegotiation of the NAFTA treaty, an agreement Trump has called, “the worst deal ever made.”

“The moment they say there’s going to be a 20% tariff on cars, I get up from the table,” says Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo. “Bye-bye.”

Things have become so sticky that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly were recently dispatched to Mexico City on a damage control mission. The primary topic of discussion, of course, was the infamous wall and Trump’s immigration policies, a key stance that swept him into office. Kelly in particular, was on the hot seat and did his best to cool down his hosts.

“No…I repeat, no use of military force along the border,” said Kelly, contradicting what the president described as a “military operation” during a recent ICE raid in Arizona.

The secretary also emphasized something else.

“Let me be clear. There will be no mass deportations.”

In President Trump’s first speech to a joint session of Congress, he seemed to soften his tone toward undocumented immigrants, hinting that a path to legal status might be possible. Once the “bad dudes” are gone, there might be some compassion for the remaining folks who have been here and raised a family over the past 10 years. That’s a positive sign, and perhaps why the speech had a 78% approval rating.

What we’d like to know is who is the REAL President Trump, and will his cabinet members continue to be asked to smooth things over? The problem here appears to be about money and the president’s lack of common sense. Building the wall still remains a high priority and we all want to secure our borders. But Mexico paying for the wall’s construction was pure campaign rhetoric. It was showmanship that rallied the masses. In reality, we should all accept the fact that Mexico will never foot the bill. Former president Vicente Fox said so in expletive terms, and Peña Nieto confirmed that a bit more eloquently. It’s not gonna happen, so tax payers like all of us are on the hook.

In order to shore up the border, the United States needs Mexico’s continued partnership. We need our neighbor’s cooperation in rounding up northern-bound Central Americans, hunting down drug traffickers and apprehending ISIS-inspired terrorists before they have an opportunity to enter our land and plot attacks. If plans for the wall commence however, regardless of who pays for it, sources in Mexico have hinted that the present security agreement could deteriorate. In other words, the U.S. would have to “go it alone.”

The second part of this thorny issue deals with both money and pure numbers. There are more than 12 million undocumented residents already here in the States, although nobody really knows for sure. Among those folks, there are currently 534,000 cases still pending in the courts according to Kelly’s agency. President Trump has promised to hire a surge of immigration judges to handle the backlog, and then allocate more money to train and dispatch thousands of additional border patrol agents. Funds will also be needed to build more detention facilities and employ extra sheriffs in rural areas. The president has vowed to cut some fat from government programs to fund these expenditures, but American tax payers will shoulder most of the burden. The open tab is certain to be billions of dollars.

Finally, it has already been determined by the higher courts that the undocumented have certain constitutional rights granted by the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, including due process and the option to appeal most verdicts. To his credit, President Trump has already made an exception for individuals covered under former President Obama’s Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals, commonly known as DACA. Dreamers who were born here are already citizens. And for law-abiding folks who have been here longer than two years, have established roots and are raising families, deportation proceedings continue to be an endless web of legal maneuvering.

That’s why we support immigration reform that will allow the undocumented an opportunity to report to authorities without fear, agree to a background check, and get on a path to legal residency. Let’s stop the madness. For the U.S. Senate and House, the ball is in your court.

-Esteban Randel     Headline photo courtesy:




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Esteban "Steve" Randel is a veteran journalist specializing in current events, sports, politics and Hispanic cuisine. He is the former publisher of "The Latin Athlete" and a longtime activist in the SoCal Hispanic community.

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