In a word, yes. In a landscape of stalled legislative agendas, there are effective moves that can be made. Last month the news was dominated by word of a caravan of refugees from Central America heading north and seeking asylum in the United States. While pressure from the U.S. on Mexico dispersed much of the caravan, some actually made it to the U.S. border. Many would be surprised to learn that this migration has recently become an annual spring event. Reports have circulated that these migrants are coached by human traffickers and open borders groups to say the “magic words” to U.S. authorities to qualify for asylum. The word is on the street: U.S. laws for refugees are wide open to exploitation and represent a back door into the United States.President Trump recently suggested in a tweet that he may use a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as the basis for immigration reforms with Mexico. The obvious demands are for Mexico to somehow pay for a border wall or clamp down on border security. Both short- and long-term history have shown that Mexico is unlikely to comply with either request.
The answer may not be to our south, but to our north. There, we have an agreement called the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement. It specifies that if a person approaches our border from Canada and seeks asylum, U.S. authorities will turn the person away as Canada is a safe third country and they must seek asylum there first. Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act defines a safe third country as one that is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and the United Nations Convention Against Torture. As it turns out, Mexico is also a signatory to both of those agreements. Within the last decade, Mexico also received the imprimatur of the UN for its progressive policies on the humane treatment of refugees.
What does all this mean for security on our vulnerable southern border? As a condition of continuing some version of the NAFTA deal that has been a lifeline for Mexico, Trump should demand that Mexico sign a safe third country agreement with the U.S. This would be effective on two levels.