What do you know? President Trump is considering closing the southwest border, as an estimated 100,000 illegal aliens entered in March. Declaring the “national emergency” – or a tipping point requiring executive action – permits him to reprogram money to the wall – but walls take time. Closing the border, by contrast, is a fast act. It comes with risks.
Mexico is – and has been – a good and bad neighbor. On one hand, Mexico is our third largest agricultural export market, buying nearly $20 billion in US agricultural products, from soybeans and dairy to beef, fish and lumber. Meanwhile, we are Mexico’s largest trading partner, buying roughly 80 percent of their exports. We also cooperate on law enforcement, regional security and in a host of other ways.
That said, of late, Mexico could be doing more to protect their southern and northern borders from criminal and refugee inflows. By protecting their southern border more effectively from Central American caravans, drug and human traffickers, they would be – in effect – be protecting our southern border more effectively.
President Trump obviously feels the Mexican Government can do more – and so can the Central American Governments. He has summarily cut off aid to parts of Central America, which may or may not produce the outcome he intends. He is threatening to close the US-Mexican border, if Mexico does not lean-in and help more to stem the flow of northern migrants.
Historical perspective is often lost, but helps in such moments. Presidents Reagan, Nixon and Johnson each closed the US-Mexico border, to good effect. Future threats to close it were taken seriously; bilateral relations were not irreconcilably damaged.
Responding to Reagan and Nixon, Mexican authorities recognized the US was serious, and worked harder to coordinate on drug trafficking issues. Both presidents also engaged their diplomatic teams – intensely – at the same time. Johnson closed the border for security reasons after the Kennedy assassination. So, this is not new.
Several questions top the moment. Does President Trump have legal authority to do this? How would it be operationalized? What trade, diplomatic and security impact would the move have? How long would it last? What is the best outcome? And how do we get there?
In order, answers. The President has constitutional and statutory authority to close our ports of entry. Under Article II powers and 8 U.S.C, 1185, the President can close US borders. The law reads in relevant part, under Section 212 (f), which dates to 1952: “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.” So, the President has the authority.
How would he operationalize the move? A combination of military and civilian law enforcement plus-ups would help. New personnel – a surge – could occur at a crossing, half a dozen, or all of them. Of course, realism is needed. Trafficking corridors – tracts between points of entry – are theoretically closed, so personnel would go to official crossings. We do have military personnel for the surge, but only for a limited period. If the goal is serious Mexican collaboration to help stop human and drug trafficking, diplomatic efforts must occur behind the scenes, with intensity.
Can President Trump use a trade lever to secure a security advantage, as elsewhere? Yes, he could. He certainly could – but with risks. Mexico might not respond in a constructive way. If the border closing was pervasive and extended, their people would suffer, and so would we – although not as much.
Reduced US-Mexico trade would – at least nominally – hit US businesses (especially agriculture) and – likely on higher prices – US consumers. True, impact in the US would be modest by comparison to impact on Mexico, but Mexican authorities – if not brought around fast – would blame the US for political fallout on their side. Political effects in the US would be a crap-shoot, positive in near term, negative over time.
Count on court challenges, on sundry legal bases, from disaffected businesses to political actors, and ardent anti-Trump activists. Those suits would cut both ways, reinforcing the President’s resolve, elevating his commitment to border security, but perhaps disadvantaging him with moderates and independent voters. Of course, he is likely to encounter a wild hare – some irreverent, indignant 9th Circuit judge, ready to reverse policy on a squirrelly doctrine.
As one thoughtful observer noted, “in any contest of wills between the president and the lower courts, in the end the Supreme Court would likely underscore the proposition that no sitting judge is reasonably poised to substitute his or her judgment for that of the chief executive in matters paramount to the safety and security of our country,” but that might take time. Thus, “the more interesting question is what would happen between any injunction issued or sustained at the district or circuit court level and a ruling by the Supreme Court?” Who knows?
All this comes back to diplomatic, security and political calculus. Our border is sacred, being violated, and needs to be protected. Our way of life is affected by law-breaking illegal entrants, some of whom have claims to asylum, most of whom do not. Our economy is the toast of the town, so many want in – or at least access to our entitlement programs. What is to be done?
The border problem is big, real, and vexing. The political impact of closing the US-Mexican border would be significant and immediate – for both countries. Nevertheless, closing it might send a profound signal. Disruptive impact on Mexico would be bigger than on the US, even if at a price. But the outcome sought would be lost, without aggressive, backroom diplomacy.
President Trump should have a list of objectives, including aggressive Mexican policing of southern and northern borders, higher levels of cooperation between federal law enforcement agencies, tailored information sharing, offers of law enforcement assistance, attention to legal and humanitarian issues, and outcomes to make the border closing meaningful.
In short: The potential for a border closing – and actual shutdown – could be effective tools for leveraging Mexican cooperation, coordination, commitment and results, but the closing alone will not do it. Diplomacy – together with an eye on trade effects – is needed.
Three presidents have done it. Closing the border would generate a short window for intensely rethinking border concerns, law enforcement cooperation, diplomatic relations, and the security relationship between the US and Mexico. A prolonged border closing would be a self-inflicted wound, affecting both economies adversely, taking more time to heal than to inflict and endure.
The best course might be this: The threat of closing is real, and President Trump is understood to mean what he says. Nevertheless, our two countries have a great deal in common, an enormous amount – shared cultural emphasis on faith and family to hard work, horrific hurricane seasons, drug and human trafficking conundrums. The best way out of this deep ditch is to cooperate. The best time to do so is now.
Sorry, but Mexico needs us more than we need them. So our President should have no problem reminding them that if they don’t help with this on slot of caravans full of want to be illegals, that He does not bluff and that America is willing to do the heavy lifting to stop this invasion that the Democrats encourage. So sad that he did not follow through and hope the Dems and Mexico don’t see this as a win for their do nothing positions. I think it weakens his Presidency when he fails on his promises. The Dems. and their lying lapdog media see it as blood in the water and like the sharks they are, they attack him as just a fear monger. They should know, since that is a large Democratic tool they use against everyone in America.
I just hope and pray we can hold out for the year he gave to Mexico, to HELP fix this problem that is effecting both Countries.
Why doesn’t the US simply say that all Aliens must apply for immigration at the US Embassy in their country first. Any immigrant who comes to the border without permission will be denied and immediately deported That would stop this onslaut at the border. Yes, more personnel would be needed at the Embassies. Would be much cheaper than hiring all the judges at the border to hear and judge all the false stories. Once you let them claim asylum and release them into US. They will try to have a “ANCHOR BABY” (Birth paid by us) and then bring the rest of their family in. The elders will be eligible for SUPPLEMENTAL SOCIAL SECURITY (A Pension). Even though they have never paid a dime into SS. Not to mention Medicade and Medicare-All at taxpayers expense! And you wonder why SS & Medicare/Medicaid is going under.
Better start screaming at Congress NOW to stop this MADNESS.
close the boarder
Why should we give them our hard earned .oney. STOP giving them any money any benefits period. We can’t go into Mexico and be given housing, food and medical.
AMAC did not mention what our border really needs and that is new laws from Congress fixing all the broken non-working current laws and the need for the liberal democrats to either work with the President or get out of the way with their phony excuses and let the people run this country.!
Being from Texas although I do live there now I know Mexico wants to Reconquista the territory it lost when they tried to conquer Texas. Google “Reconquista” and you will get it. I have known Mexicans who say we will take back the southwest by numbers. Heck they already got California and these Democrats want all these illegals in for votes while destroying the US. Support Trump and his efforts.
what makes Mexico such a good neighbor? That they have not (militarily) invaded us?
Mexico send us their criminals
sends us their welfare cases
economically bleeds our economy dry
escorts welfare cases from south America through Mexico to the US/MEX border With”good neighbors” like that who needs enemies.
The people coming here from Central America are not leaving a war torn area nor gang ridden despiration. They are here for all the free stuff we tax payers provide. It’s a big scam, and we the tax payers are footing the bill. The government needs to step up to the plate and address illegal immigration problem. Trump can’t do it by himself. Send Mitch McConnell to the border for a few weeks.
President Trump has tried to get cooperation from Mexico & dems to no avail. It’s time to shut it down to get some solidarity on our border before they bankrupt America. I’m not racist but I don’t feel like it is the obligation of the American tax payer to support these people. There should be no aid at all going to these South American countries that are obviously miss handling the aid sent to them & not taking care of their own people.
MAGA, secure the border as our president deems necessary, build the wall, turn on the tear gas, round up the illegals & deport them, follow our leader.
Close the BORDER !
Just separate out the different kinds of border traffic and have the border crossings for each in more defensible geographic locations…
1) Have a border crossing just for Mexico bound commercial trucks,
2) another for Mexico bound U.S. citizen auto traffic,
3) another for Mexico bound non-citizen auto traffic.
4) another for Mexico bound U.S. citizen foot traffic,
5) another for Mexico bound non-citizen foot traffic.
6) Have a border crossing just for Mexico bound commercial trucks,
7) another for Mexico bound U.S. citizen auto traffic,
8) another for Mexico bound non-citizen auto traffic.
9) another for Mexico bound U.S. citizen foot traffic,
10) another for Mexico bound non-citizen foot traffic.
11) Make the crossings portable if possible to allow them to be moved.
12) Place the crossings on lakes and rivers and in areas that are inhospitable geographically, geologically, and climatologically.
13) Plant the Chollo Cactus in native areas along the border on the Mexican side of the wall and in labyrinth-like fields.
14) Force all trucks and people to unload and and reload to new trucks and trains and vehicles/buses to cross from Mexico to the U.S.
15) Have pedestrian crossing all over chasms with means to disconnect and shutdown the bridges.
16) Offer to buy land/areas from Mexico that will shorten the length of the border list he Gadsen Purchase.
17) Offer Mexican states on the border territory status and later statehood IF they maintain their border security AND bring crime below the lowest U.S. levels. Of course all the people would have to be fully vetted.
American are not against any hardworking people with good values becoming Americans if it is done through thorough vetting without taxpayer’s dollars and they carry their own weight and contribute. We are just against the lawless and unprincipled and freeloaders.
Mexico can care less if the U.S. has to deal with all the caravans of illiterate, poor, that come into this country to feed off our social services. They send 1/3 of their people over to do the same. Cut all social services, education, and medical to illegals. Increase ICE raids and deport any and all illegals (including DACA). We are not responsible for mistakes the parents have made in bringing their children here. Cut foreign aid to Mexico and do not allow individuals to send money that they earned here back to Mexico. Mexico is a bad neighbor.
How do those thieves, burglars, sex offenders, and rapists get to their targets? Most of the time not through the front door or gates. They look for weak points; like back fence, open side windows, and broken fence. Just like those illegals, they get into our country in hundreds or thousands through unsecured places with broken fences or without fences; human smugglers know where those weak points are. That’s where the law enforcement should be concentrated the most. Do you think those illegals wanna get caught sneaking into our country? That’s why they are called illegals, doing it unlawfully.
BUILD THE WALL!!
why is no one talking about cutting off the money!!!! shut down the source of money and the incentive to come here is gone!!!
keep the border open – as a ballot question. Every person who votes to keep it open must then open their homes to a minimum of one illegal family or more if space permits in their home and they must support the family instead of the government. I’ll bet their tune would change if it became their responsibility.
Beef up patrols and security. Why can’t we get military reserves, and national guard involved temporarily, to deal with the increased threats at this time.
The USA has access to fruit and vegetables within its borders. Mexico will not stop the caravans a d the drugs so close the boarder until they act responsibly.
Close the border. We have many pediphiles, sorry about spelling, most are Hispanic. We need to protect our children. Plus if the government would stop supporting them that would slow them down. The Social Security is a pension plan Americans paid into and it would not be drained if the government would quit giving it away to ILLEGALS.
Close all crossings but one ,close that one to private vehicles ,allow only large trucks that have been inspected and sealed and inspect 5 or 10% of those crossing if any contraband found arrest the inspector for smuggling who ok the truck to cross.