Donald Trump on Monday threatened to close the U.S.-Mexico border, “permanently if need be,” due to the ongoing crisis of a migrant caravan assembled at the border in Tijuana, the New York Post is reporting.
For days now, a caravan of Central American migrants, having made their way through Mexico with designs on immigrating to the United States en masse, has been held up in Tijuana. They have found themselves unwelcome in the poor Mexican city, overflowing homeless shelters and finding themselves the subject of abuse at the hands of the city’s residents and officials.
They are finding that they are equally unwelcome in the U.S. Border Patrol agents have fired tear gas at migrants trying to sneak through holes in the fence, and some have reportedly thrown “projectiles” at Border Patrol agents.
On Monday morning, Trump told Mexico to deal with the problem, saying on Twitter that something needs to be done about the migrants, whom Trump called “criminals,” or else drastic action would be taken.
“Mexico should move the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries. Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it anyway you want, but they are NOT coming into the U.S.A. We will close the Border permanently if need be. Congress, fund the WALL!”
A migrant family, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, runs away from tear gas in front of the U.S.-Mexico border wall in Tijuana, Mexico.— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 25, 2018
(????: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters) pic.twitter.com/pz7hkxsN9g
In fact, threatening to close the southern border is a tactic Trump has used before in efforts to stem the tide of illegal immigrants. And as USA Today reported in October, it appears that legal precedent backs his authority to do so.
Gil Kerlikowske, former commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said that it’s simply a matter of the president making a phone call.
“You can certainly stop entries coming across the border, whether its truck traffic or cars or pedestrians. Logistically, that’s possible. The gates are closed, and you say, ‘Right now we’re not taking entry.'”
George W. Bush did it following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; and two decades before that, Ronald Reagan did it in 1985 following the murder of a DEA agent in Mexico.
However, closing the border permanently, while Trump may have the authority to do it, is off the table. That’s because billions of dollars of goods come across the southern border, including approximately half of U.S. fresh fruit and vegetables, and doing so would devastate the economy.
Meanwhile, Trump’s proposed border wall, which has been a central part of his platform since the campaign back in 2016, has failed to materialize. Congress has allocated no money for it, and Trump has repeatedly threatened drastic action if he doesn’t get it.