Sabotaging Trump's Wall and Mexican Removals: Would It Work?

By Dan Cadman on November 15, 2016

My colleague Jerry Kammer posted yesterday on the opposition of Mexican politician Jorge Castaneda to key immigration initiatives outlined by President-Elect Donald Trump — initiatives that helped him en route to the White House, including his signature "wall" to be built on the U.S.–Mexico border, as well as deportation of Mexicans residing illegally in the United States.

As Kammer notes,

"I think Mexico should draw its line," Castaneda writes in a column for El Financiero that is also published on his website. In blunt language he outlines a plan for Mexico to paralyze deportations by declaring that it will accept deportees only if the United States presents documents to prove that they are Mexicans.


This may, as Kammer also notes, simply be Mexican politics being played out for a binational audience by a man trying to capture the Mexican presidency by appealing to national pride. Then again, it may be more, or it may catch fire in the kind of populist way that Trump's own policy suggestions did among American voters.

But would this sabotage of Trump's plans succeed? I doubt it. There are just too many ways in which Mexico depends on U.S. trade and dollars, including remittances. (In 2015, Mexican citizens abroad sent over $24.8 billion home, and the vast majority of that was earned in the United States.) All of that would be at risk.

Then there are the unpleasant consequences embedded in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that could be used as leverage against Mexico should they attempt to implement a plan that paralyzes removals:




  • INA Section 243(d). This section of law provides that the United States should suspend issuance of visas for nationals of countries that do not cooperate in the removal of their citizens. Although almost never used in the past (as we at the Center have repeatedly lamented), the chances are greater by a quantum amount that this provision of law would be invoked under a Trump administration. Quite likely, it would also be done incrementally, in a way designed to both embarrass and personally inconvenience the political leaders by first denying or revoking visas possessed by their family members, and then senior bureaucrats, before moving down the pyramid to rank and file.

  • INA Section 212(f). This portion of the INA permits the president to designate nationalities or classes of individuals who will be forbidden entry to the United States. If the Mexican government's resistance to removals of its citizens were wholesale, the president could invoke this section of law to instantaneously and unilaterally "nullify" border crossing cards and multiple entry visas used by Mexicans living near the border to daily cross and conduct their transnational business. It would be a crippling blow. U.S. border cities would undoubtedly also feel the pinch, but invocation of this provision could be done in such a way as to make clear that the declaration would be revoked as quickly as the Mexican government returned to business-as-usual where repatriations are concerned.

  • INA Section 212(a)(3)(C). Finally, focusing directly on Mr. Castaneda himself: He is a distinguished leader and scholar with longtime ties to the United States — but he might also find himself on the wrong side of the administration and the law if his resistance war cry reached a sufficient level of irritation. He might find himself excluded from the United States should the new secretary of State declare his presence contrary to America's foreign policy goals, one of which must certainly be our interest in ensuring that countries fully cooperate with us in our own law enforcement efforts.


In sum, Mr. Castaneda's proposals probably go part-way toward putting salve on the wounds of Mexican pride. But incurring the official wrath of an incoming Trump administration, which has staked its reputation on putting our nation's immigration policies back in order, would likely be unwise in the extreme.






Topics: Mexico