US President Donald Trump is preparing to threaten Mexico with tariffs to put pressure on the country to crack down on individuals seeking asylum in the United States, although some White House officials are trying to talk him out of the move, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
Trump earlier on Thursday told reporters he would soon make a “dramatic” statement about immigration at the US border with Mexico where US authorities are struggling to deal with a surge of migrants and refugees, many of them fleeing violence and poverty in Central American countries.
Citing three unnamed administration officials, the Washington Post said the statement Trump teased and which he is planning on making on Friday would be about tariffs.
The White House provided no immediate comment on the Washington Post story. Vice President Mike Pence told reporters that Trump is considering taking additional action to make it clear that Mexico needs to do more, but declined to say whether the president will threaten tariffs.
“This is a big-league statement, but we are going to do something very dramatic on the border,” Trump told reporters earlier in the day at the White House.
Trump, who vowed during his 2016 presidential campaign to build a wall along the US border with Mexico, has made a hardline stance on immigration a cornerstone of his presidency.
However, he has struggled to win enough support from politicians in the US House of Representatives and the Senate to change immigration policy or to garner funds to build the wall. Under his “zero-tolerance” policy, the president has implemented several policies or practices that have been blocked by federal judges or are currently being challenged in the courts.
White House aides arguing against the new tariff threat said the move would upset financial markets and possibly imperil passage of a US-Mexico-Canada trade deal that is a top administration priority, the Washington Post said, citing the officials.
A senior White House official, however, said there was broad support across the administration to pressure Mexico, according to the newspaper, and that an announcement was likely on Friday.
Separately on Thursday, a US federal judge rejected an effort by the Trump administration to begin construction on a wall on the border with Mexico while it appeals a ruling that found funding for the wall was likely not authorised by Congress.
US District Court Judge Haywood Gilliam in Oakland, California said in a written order the government was unlikely to prevail on the merits of its appeal, and, therefore, failed to justify a stay of a preliminary injunction issued last Friday.
Arrests along the southern border have skyrocketed in recent months, with border agents making more than 100,000 arrests or denials of entry in March, a 12-year high.
According to NBC, the group of 1,036 people, was the largest ever encountered by the Border Patrol.
Immigration groups say more migrants and refugees are choosing to travel in large groups for safety reasons.