Mexicans react to Donald Trump’s election win

From fears of inflation to speculation about what it may mean for undocumented migrants, Mexicans reflect on the result.

In Ciudad Juarez, Trump's election win makes front page news in local newspapers [Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters]

Mexico City, Mexico – Manuel Garcia Rodriguez is bleary eyed inside Niuyorquina restaurant in Mexico City where he works as a waiter. It’s after 1am and the restaurant has just closed. He and his co-workers are watching as CNN calls Pennsylvania for Donald Trump. Amid calls of fraud and election buying from his friends, Manuel says he’s worried. 

“All of Latin America will have inflation,” he says, “but I’m scared for the world. He is the Antichrist.”  

Donald Trump might not be the Antichrist but Manuel’s fear of inflation is already a reality. As early returns began coming in, showing a stronger than anticipated turnout for Trump, the Mexican peso tumbled. By 9pm the currency had dropped 4.5 percent. By 10pm it was 8.5 percent, 13 percent by midnight.  

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The Mexican government appeared to be in crisis mode with one government official saying there was panic at the finance ministry. In the early hours of the morning, Mexico’s central banker and finance minister announced a rare joint press conference for 7am where they strived to reassure the country. 

“Our framework of public finances and the strength of our public and private institutions allow us to avoid premature reactions that are ahead of facts that as of now we still don’t know,” said Jose Antonio Meade, Mexico’s Minister of Finance.

The peso rebounded a hair after the speech but still sits 8.5 percent off where it started yesterday. Still, some analysts warn that the worst could be yet to come, saying that the peso could fall by as much as 20 percent, a powerful blow to the country’s currency.

Order to the cities

Sitting in front of a coffee shop the morning after the election, Billy Jimenez, a surgeon, wasn’t reassured. With 80 percent of Mexican exports going to the US, the possibility of a changed trade relationship scares him.

“It will affect free trade a lot, which is important. We’re the principal trading partner with the United States,” he says. “And there still isn’t a lot of foreign investment in Mexico.” 

While acknowledging that it will probably hurt the US’ economy as well, he suggests an upside. 

“There are a lot of protests there. It’s going to be a good change. He’ll bring order to the cities,” adding, “the undocumented people are a problem.”  

Donald Trump has pledged to round up and deport millions of undocumented people, a plan he says will be carried out by tripling Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel.  

But with crime rates in Central America sky rocketing and turmoil in the Middle East and Africa contributing to a global refugee crisis, the flow of refugees and migrants through Mexico to the US seems unlikely to slow down. 

In January, Mexican immigration officials detained 11,543 individuals entering Mexico illegally. By September that number had ballooned to 19,928. While the vast majority of these individuals are from Central America, September saw 4,888 people from African countries arriving in Mexico, a 92 percent increase since January. 

Recent waves of Cuban and Haitian refugees have seen shelters along Mexico’s northern and southern border operating well above their maximum capacity. In Tijuana, where 5,000 Haitians are currently waiting to try to enter the US, the Casa del Migrante shelter has at times taken in double it’s preferred number of occupants.  

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Those organisations now worry that if a President Trump follows through on his proposals they will become completely overwhelmed.  

“We are going to see deportations increase,” says Marco Antonio Lopez, the director of Casa de Los Amigos, a migrant shelter in Mexico City. Already cash strapped, Lopez worries things will get more difficult. 

“Organisations that support refugees will see our costs rise substantially.” 

With little information as to what a Trump foreign policy would look like, it is difficult to determine whether his administration will help alleviate or exacerbate drivers of immigration. 

Raha Jorjani is an immigration defence lawyer and staff attorney at the University of California, Davis.  

“What we’re seeing in the immigration law world is not at all divorced from our foreign policies. What do we do, and what have we done in other countries to effect migration trends?”

“Interventions,” she says, “factor into people’s abilities to stay in their countries.”  

“It’s kind of deep,” Jorjani says, referring to previous US foreign policies in Central America, “to go into someone’s house, bulldoze it, and then say you can’t come to my house.” 

Although she is fearful of some of the economic impacts of inflation, Lillian Carranza, a tourism management student in Mexico City, has found one positive in it. It can help one sector, she says: tourism.

“It would be cheaper to travel here, so that’s great.”

Source: Al Jazeera