Opinion

Trump’s Threats of Tariffs Made Mexico Blink

Americans have been sending people to Washington for decades with hardened ideas to stop the crisis of illegal immigration along our southern border. We’ve tried increasing patrols, fences, drones and the National Guard. Nothing has worked. And the influx of migrants from Central America through our porous border over the past several years have brought our defenses to the breaking point. That’s why, to the great consternation of official Washington, President Trump tossed out the old playbook on how to defend our southern border and took the fight to Mexico.

New statistics released Wednesday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection revealed that arrests at the border surpassed 144,000 in May – a 32 percent jump from April and a 13-year record high. May was the third month in a row that arrests reached over 100,000 – a clear indication that the crisis is deepening. President Trump correctly recognized that Mexican leaders have the power to reduce the pressure on our shared border, but have never shown an interest in stopping the flow of migrants coming through their country in hopes of crossing into the United States illegally.

Mexico clearly thought that this president was like all the rest before him – leaders who pay lip service to enforcing border security, but fail to take substantive action. They were wrong.

President Trump’s threat to impose a 5 percent tariff on Mexican imports forced our neighbor to start acting like the close friend and ally that it should be. With the possibility of steadily increasing tariffs to as high as 25 percent that would have decimated its economy, Mexico blinked.

Thousands of Mexican troops are now being deployed to the Mexican-Guatemalan border.  Mexico has also pledged to dismantle the human-smuggling networks that have created a humanitarian crisis and share information about migrants more closely with American officials.

The president’s idea was bold. It was smart. It was innovative. And it worked.

Congress has consistently been out of step with the American people in its disapproval of the president’s border security policies. It wagged its fingers at the president when he declared the border crisis a national emergency. It dragged down his efforts to build the wall. And it piled scorn on the White House for enforcing the laws it passed. But today, the lobbyists and their allies on Capitol Hill who opposed the president’s strategy are surely feeling chastised.  

Enough is enough. Results matter. Members of both parties should admit the president was successful and line up behind him. But old habits are hard to break and change may be slow in coming.

Democrats will continue to oppose anything and everything the president puts forward. They’re uncomfortable playing hardball. And Republicans, who proudly champion secure borders in town halls and fundraisers, parroted the doomsday talking points of special interests that left them looking wishy-washy or worse – soft – in declining to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the president. This can’t happen again.

Of course, had the tariffs been imposed, it may very well have impacted consumers. Higher prices were possible in supermarkets, car dealerships and big box stores. What Washington didn’t understand but the president did, is that most people outside of Wall Street and the Beltway were OK with that. Working-class voters across Ohio and neighboring states who took a chance on the president in 2016 were ready, willing and able to absorb some short-term pain if it meant an end to failed strategies.

That may not have been true if President Trump hadn’t led an unprecedented economic charge since taking office, rejuvenated manufacturing and put more money into all of our pockets. But he has. His policies work. Americans are economically strong, confident and ready to try something new to once and for all solve this problem. By preparing to impose tariffs, the president demonstrated his focus on solutions – and he delivered for communities devastated by illegal immigration.

Constantly staring down Congress and overturning the status quo takes guts. I applaud the president for his leadership – and so do millions of Americans who are focused on getting things done. He knew the drugs, gangs, arms smuggling and human trafficking flooding the border had reached a tipping point, threatening the security and safety of American citizens across the country, and that more talk was not the prescription. The country needed action.

It’s clear to me where the American people are on this issue. They demand a secure border.  They don’t care how it happens. And they’re fed up with “business as usual” in Washington.

Mexico and the countries of Central America have been put on notice that things have changed.  Mexico hasn’t been the good ally and neighbor that it can be. It has pledged to be one now. Surely, Mexico doesn’t want to relive the experience of staring down the barrel of a decimated economy and no other nation is interested in finding out just what it’s like to defy the United States.

Thanks to the president and his strategy, Mexico had no other choice but to act, and our towns and cities will soon be safer and more secure thanks to his brand of strength and leadership.

Jim Renacci represented Ohio’s 16th congressional district from 2011 to 2019.  

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