The US-Mexico border crossing at San Ysidro, California
Having shut down the US Government by demanding money for his Wall with Mexico, Donald Trump threatens to close the southern border.
Trump, who has relied on Twitter messages since the closure of the Government on December 21, issued his latest warning on Friday:
We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall & also change the ridiculous immigration laws that our Country is saddled with. Hard to believe there was a Congress & President who would approve!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 28, 2018
Trump told Democrat Congressional leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi on December 11, “I will be proud to take credit for a shutdown of our government over border security.” The House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution, funding the government, with the $5.7 billion demanded by Trump; however, the Senate — where pro-Trump Republicans are not as prominent — refused to consider the measure before the shutdown deadline.
Talks between the White House and Democrat legislators ended quickly on Thursday, and the Senate only convened for four minutes. Democrats are offering an additional $1.3 billion for border security, but no funds for the Wall, regarded as a useless Trump vanity project. Incoming White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Vice President Mike Pence have proposed $2.5 billion for border security — including new fencing which Trump might call a “Wall” — and $400 million for other immigration measures.
Democrats have noted that, with his focus on the Wall, Trump has not spent 94% of additional border security funds which have already been approved by Congress.
In his tweets this week, Trump has insulted the 9th Circuit Court, issued hyperbolic statements about “Drugs” and “Human Trafficking”, misrepresented Israel’s border fence across Palestinian territory, and falsely proclaimed that “shutdown money” could fund the US Government.
He continued on Friday with more distorting and falsehoods. Apparently regarding trade as Mexico taking money from the US, he insisted: “The United States looses soooo much money on Trade with Mexico under NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement], over 75 Billion Dollars a year (not including Drug Money which would be many times that amount), that I would consider closing the Southern Border a ‘profit making operation’.”
Trump threatened to scrap NAFTA, revised with Mexico and Canada on September 30 after months of negotiation: “Go back to pre-NAFTA, before so many of our companies and jobs were so foolishly sent to Mexico.” And he renewed his warning to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador: “We will be cutting off all aid to these 3 countries — taking advantage of US for years!”
Last week the State Department announced plans to direct $10.6 billion to Mexico and Central America — including Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador — to stem the movement of migrants towards the US.
White House advisors played down the impression of an isolated Trump venting anger through his tweets. They said he was “surprisingly good” that he is missing a planned 16-day vacation at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida because of the shutdown.
Mulvaney insisted Trump is “very heavily engaged on [shutdown negotiations] on a minute-by-minute basis”. Asked if Trump is willing to close the US-Mexico border, Mulvaney responded, “I think he is.”
Nine of 15 Government departments have been closed, including Homeland Security, responsible for US borders. About 800,000 employees — half of them continuing to work in “essential” positions — will not be paid from December 21 during the closure.
Democrats have pledged to reopen the Government when they take control of the House of Representatives on January 3, with a continuing resolution that does not include Wall money.
Trump’s Empty Threat
Trump’s threat of border closure is likely to be little more than political bluster as any order cannot be enforced, according to analysts.
US citizens cannot be stopped from re-entering from Mexico. A halt on admission of foreigners with legal visas will probably be overturned by courts, especially as Trump has framed the ban as political leverage rather than a necessity for national security.
Last week a federal judge in California ruled against the Administration’s attempt to limit entry for refugees seeking asylum.
Any bar on trade is prohibited by statutes in the North American Free Trade Agreement, unless there is an overriding national security concern.