The Three Times US Presidents Closed The Southern Border With Mexico

U.S. Border Patrol agents stand watch on the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico border fence at dusk on November 26, 2018 in Tijuana, Mexico.
Mario Tama / Getty Images

Donald Trump’s threat to close the border is pretty scary stuff, but it’s not necessarily history-making. Though there’s no examples from really recent history, there were three times in the past that US presidents closed the Mexican border.

Of course, they did it for very short amounts of time.

The first time the border was closed in US history was the year 1963. The president, John F. Kennedy, had just been shot in Texas. The newly promoted President Lyndon Johnson closed the border right around 8 p.m., local time, to the shock of the world.

However, even this was not a full closure. At the time, the El Paso Times reported that “some vehicles” were allowed to pass through.

Johnson closed the border because JFK’s assassin was still unknown and had yet to be apprehended by law enforcement. He closed the border only to prevent the murderer from fleeing to the other side and thus evading the law.

The border was closed twice more after that until Donald Trump: once apiece by Richard Nixon in 1969 and Ronald Reagan in 1985, according to the Daily Signal.

When Reagan and Nixon closed the border, it was due to drug-related issues.

“Mexico wants to see if they can get it straightened out, but we’ve, during certain times as you know, closed the border,” Donald Trump said Monday. “Here’s the bottom line, nobody is going to come into this country unless they come legally.”

His comments come in the wake of an incident at the border Sunday in which canisters of tear gas were launched at immigrants at the border, as reported by NBC News.

It began as a peaceful, planned march by the immigrant caravan that has walked from Honduras to seek asylum in the US. When groups attempted to break through the border, US Border Patrol Agents launched cans of tear gas into a crowd that included young children, according to Vox.

Some of the immigrants threw rocks, and Border Agents responded with rubber bullets and tear gas. CNN reports that four agents were hit with rocks. They were wearing protective gear and were unharmed.

Trump has since denied that tear gas was used on children, but pictures and videos prove otherwise.

The border point at San Ysidro was closed for several hours in the wake of the event. Trump tweeted that he will “close the Border permanently if need be.”

No one is sure what constitutes “need be,” but more than $1 billion in revenue would be lost every day if the entire border was closed.

And in any case, Trump doesn’t have the power to close the border permanently. District judges could file injunctions to block Trump’s border closure.