San Ysidro Crossing – Photo by the US Customs and Border Protection, taken by Mani Albrecht

Caravans of migrants from Central America have crossed from the south to the north of Mexico seeking to reach the US border and ask for asylum. There are now approximately 8,200 people at Tijuana waiting for their claims to be processed at the border’s point of entry.

The migrant caravan has stolen the headlines for the last few weeks but few predicted it could impact on the Mexican auto industry. With the crisis growing to uncontrollable proportions, President Trump is now threatening to close the US border completely for as long as it would take for the situation to be brought under control. “Mexico will not be able to sell their cars into the US,” Trump said. “We now have a good trade deal with Mexico and with Canada, but we will close the border. That means Mexico will not be able to sell their cars into the US until it is open.”

The physical shutdown (even temporary) of entry points such as that in Tijuana could have serious economic implications for both the US and Mexico. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, Mexico is currently the US’ third largest good trading partner with total trade of US$557.6 billion in 2017. Mexico is the US’ second largest export market and the second largest import market. Focusing on vehicles alone, in 2017 US$84 billion worth of vehicles entered the US from Mexico and US$21 billion worth left the country.

Over the past two weeks, migrants have reached Tijuana by the thousands in an effort to seek asylum in the US, drawing attention from the media and the governments on both sides of the border. Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum has declared a humanitarian crisis and asked both the federal government and the UN for resources to support the people arriving to the city and currently camping at a sports center near the border. Gastélum has criticized the Peña Nieto administration for not taking Trump’s threats more seriously.

On Sunday, however, matters became more serious, provoking threats to close the border indefinitely. Migrants rallied due to the slow pace at which asylum claims were being processed by US officials. When people started jumping the fence dividing Mexico and the US, Customs and Border Protection officers fired tear gas into Mexico and closed all vehicle and foot traffic at the San Ysidro border crossing, the busiest in the country with over 100,000 people using it every day.

Trump then urged the Mexican government once again to take care of the problem. “Mexico should move the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries. Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it anyway you want, but they are NOT coming into the U.S.A. We will close the Border permanently if need be. Congress, fund the WALL!” he tweeted this morning.

Experts interviewed by the Washington Post agree Trump cannot close the border indefinitely since there is no known provision that gives Trump such a power. Preventing people from claiming asylum would also directly contravene both US and international migration laws. Furthermore, according to current law, any person seeking asylum can ask for it as soon as they reach US soil, whether they entered through a legal entry point or not.

The data used in this article was sourced from the Office of the United States Trade Representative, The Washington Post, Global News and Excelsior.

Don’t forget to follow us on twitter at @mexautomotive and @mexautomotriz for the latest industry news.

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