On Sunday, U.S. Border Patrol agents used tear gas to disperse Central American migrants rushing for the fence separating San Diego and Tijuana. The Border Patrol maintains that agents found themselves under attack and that their response was measured and necessary. This is not the first such incident to have taken place in the vicinity. Almost exactly five years ago, a large assembly of border crossers made an attempt to rush across the Tijuana River channel into the U.S., throwing rocks and bottles at Border Patrol agents until the crossers were halted and pushed back, in part by the use of pepper spray.
One difference between then and now, however, is that while Mexican officials claimed no knowledge of the border-crossing incident then, perhaps out of a reluctance to seem too solicitous toward their U.S. counterparts, Mexican officials today are striking a notably different tone, emphasizing their own role in border security. As Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico’s president-elect, prepares to take office on December 1, there are tentative signs that his government-in-waiting is open to striking a new migration bargain with the U.S.—one that could bring about a deeper, more fruitful partnership between the two countries. But for that to happen, President Donald Trump can’t expect to bully Mexico’s incoming nationalist government into submission. To have any hope of success, he must help López Obrador realize his vision of a more vibrant and prosperous Mexico that is very much the equal of the “colossus of the north.”