Following up with Twitter threats made earlier in the week, President Donald Trump claims there’s a “very good likelihood” that he’ll seal the U.S.-Mexico border to curb the flow of migrants northward.
“I will close the border if Mexico doesn’t get with it,” Trump told reporters Friday. “If Mexico doesn’t stop it.”
The New York Times notes that Trump has suggested closing the border several times in the past. While the administration has never followed through, it’s now laying the groundwork to do just that.
According to the Times¸ government officials confirmed they’re reviewing ways to reorganize and redeploy Border Patrol agents along with closing traffic lanes and ports of entry. Trump says he’s prepared to shut down as early as “next week,” even if it means grinding cross-border commerce to a dead stop.
“If they don’t stop it, we will keep the border closed,” Trump said. “I’m not playing games.”
Of course, Trump’s tactics do more than pressure Mexico—they could also jeopardize American pocketbooks, American livelihoods and American plans. Mexico, writes the Times, is one of the United States’ largest trading partners. And thousands of citizens cross the border each day, for business, leisure and family visits.
The NYT observed that Trump appeared to be riding a high brought by news that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is not accusing him or his 2016 campaign of having colluded with the Russian government.
Nevertheless, his mind seemed stuck on immigration: a recurring theme of his presidency, the focus upon which culminated in last summer’s separation of migrant families and a humanitarian crisis along the border.
By and large, Trump has blamed illegal immigration on his predecessors. Even though unauthorized border crossing counts have decreased for years, the president claims contemporary law lacks the means to maintain security.
“We have the most laughed-at immigration laws of anywhere in the world,” Trump told reporters. “They’re the Democrats’ laws, and I got stuck with them.”
Trump, for much of his presidency, has expressed animosity toward Mexico, its citizens and government. He’s also lambasted administrations farther south, in Central American nations like Guatemala and Honduras.
According to Trump, illegal immigration exists because foreign leaders lack the will to enact or enforce the law.
Paradoxically, he’s praised Mexican immigration statutes but suggested they’re not properly used.
“Mexico is tough,” Trump told reporters. “If they don’t stop them, we’re closing the border.”
The move would be another escalation in the White House’s war on immigration. Legislative efforts to repeal the president’s declaration of national emergency along the border have fallen flat, meaning Trump may soon divert funds to begin his long-promised wall.
Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen reiterated America’s state of emergency Friday, asking volunteers to offer support while also admitting that U.S. citizens may experience hardship if the border does close.
“Make no mistake: Americans may feel effects from this emergency,” she said. “As personnel are reallocated to join the crisis-response effort, there may be commercial delays, higher vehicle wait times at the border and longer pedestrian times.”
“Despite these impacts,” Nielsen added, “we cannot shirk our responsibility to the American people to do everything possible to secure our country while also upholding our humanitarian values.”