Hundreds of Central American migrants walk together on the highway, after crossing the Guatemala – Mexico border, near Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, June 5, 2019.
Hundreds of Central American migrants walk together on the highway, after crossing the Guatemala – Mexico border, near Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, June 5, 2019.

VOA's Nike Ching contributed to this report.

WASHINGTON — The United States and Mexico hold more talks Thursday about migrant policy as a U.S. deadline looms for Mexico to take more action to control the number of people reaching the border or face tariffs on Mexican goods sent to the U.S. market.

If no agreement is reached, U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to apply the 5% tariff beginning Monday, with monthly escalations up to as much as 25% by October.

"Progress is being made, but not nearly enough!" he tweeted late Wednesday.  "The higher the Tariffs go, the higher the number of companies that will move back to the USA!"

He added Thursday in comments to reporters, “We’ve told Mexico the tariffs go on, and I mean it too.”

Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, who has led a delegation of negotiators in Washington this week, said after talks ended Wednesday that he remains optimistic the two sides will work out a deal.

“What we want to avoid is the impact of the tariffs for the two economies, for the consumers, for the people of both countries,” he told reporters.

He said both countries have been able to lay out their positions and that the dialogue would continue.

 

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, May 31, 2019.
Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, May 31, 2019.

In Mexico City, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador reiterated his own optimistic position.

“We think that a deal will be reached because that’s the best for Mexico and the United States to maintain relations that are friendly … that there be communication and an understanding. The best thing is free trade ... to not close us,” Lopez Obrador said.

To curb the number of migrants, the two neighboring countries have been discussing a proposed “safe third country” agreement that could significantly reduce how many asylum-seekers journey through Mexico in an attempt to reach the United States.

A “safe third country” deal between Mexico and the United States would require asylum-seekers from Central America to apply for protection in Mexico rather than at the U.S. border.

Mexican officials have rejected the proposal.

A White House official said ahead of Wednesday’s talks, “Trade and all other aspects of our relationship are critically important, but national security comes first, and the White House is dead serious about moving forward with tariffs if nothing can be done to stem the flow of migrants.”

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at Shannon Airport in Shannon, Ireland, June 5, 2019.
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at Shannon Airport in Shannon, Ireland

 

U.S. authorities say more than 100,000 undocumented migrants, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, have crossed into the United States in recent months. They are hoping to find work to escape violence and poverty in their home countries.

The U.S. government also announced Wednesday that in May 144,000 migrants were detained at the border, up 32% from April. It was the highest monthly figure in 13 years.

Some Republican lawmakers, normally close political allies of Trump, have said they will try to block the tariffs with legislation, which also would draw wide support from opposition Democrats. Numerous lawmakers fear rising consumer costs for Americans if the tariffs are imposed on Mexican goods, including cars and numerous food products exported to the U.S.

Some Republican lawmakers, normally close political allies of Trump, have said they will try to block the tariffs with legislation, which also would draw wide support from opposition Democrats. Numerous lawmakers fear rising consumer costs for Americans if the tariffs are imposed on Mexican goods, including cars and numerous food products exported to the U.S.

Trump said Republicans would be “foolish” to try to stop him from imposing the tariffs.

In his comments Thursday, Trump also revisited his criticism of congressional Democrats for what he says is their refusal to “fix the immigration laws.”