WASHINGTON (REUTERS, AFP) - US President Donald Trump said on Thursday (May 30) that the United States will impose a 5 per cent tariff on all goods coming from Mexico starting on June 10 until illegal immigration across the southern border is stopped.
"The tariff will gradually increase until the illegal immigration problem is remedied, at which time the tariffs will be removed," Mr Trump said on Twitter.
In a statement issued by the White House, Mr Trump said the tariff would increase to 10 per cent on July 1, 15 per cent on Aug 1, 20 per cent on Sept 1 and to 25 per cent on Oct 1.
"Mexico’s passive cooperation in allowing this mass incursion constitutes an emergency and extraordinary threat to the national security and economy of the United States," Mr Trump said in the statement.
Mr Trump’s announcement came a day after border agents in El Paso, Texas, detained the largest single group of migrants ever encountered by Border Patrol Agents – 1,036 people.
The group crossed the Rio Grande River from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, in the early morning hours of Wednesday, illustrating the mounting problem that Mr Trump’s administration has been unable to get under control.
The number of migrants apprehended has topped 100,000 a month in recent months. They are mostly people fleeing poverty and violence in Central America to ask for asylum once they arrive on US soil.
"Mexico’s passive cooperation in allowing this mass incursion constitutes an emergency and extraordinary threat to the national security and economy of the United States," the White House said in a statement.
"Mexico has very strong immigration laws and could easily halt the illegal flow of migrants, including by returning them to their home countries. Additionally, Mexico could quickly and easily stop illegal aliens from coming through its southern border with Guatemala."
In an immediate response, Mexico’s top diplomat for North America said the imposition of the tariff would be "disastrous", adding that Mexico would retaliate.
"It’s disastrous. If this threat is carried out, it would be extremely serious," said Mr Jesus Seade, under-secretary for North American affairs at the Mexican foreign ministry.
"If this is put in place, we must respond vigorously," he told a press conference.