Can Donald Trump Close The Southern Border Entirely? It's Complicated
All President Trump wanted for Christmas was $5 billion for his long promised border wall. Unfortunately, Santa didn't come through, which prompted serious criticism from the president. On Friday, Dec. 28, Trump threatened to close the southern border "entirely" if Congress doesn't come up with his requested funding. And now many of you might be wondering if Trump can actually close the southern border entirely. Though he sounded pretty confident in his ability to do so, it's more complicated than he let on.
As the government shutdown stretches toward its second week (which stems from the fight over funding for the border wall) with no end in sight, Trump took to Twitter early Friday morning to send a series of threats about shutting down the southern border with Mexico. In one tweet, he strongly declared, "We build a Wall or close the Southern Border." In another, he wrote that he would be "forced" to do so if Democrats don't give him his requested budget. (Democrats previously made offer of $1.3 billion for wall fencing and have made it clear that they aren't budging). Elite Daily reached out to the White House for additional comment on the shutdown and the situation at the border but did not immediately hear back.
Here's a look at the tweetstorm:
The White House did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's inquiry for additional comment, including whether the president intends to follow through with the promise and on what timeline, should Congress continue to refuse funds for a border wall. According to CBS News, however, Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney later told reporters that "yes," Trump meant what he said in his tweets.
While it would be a rare move to close the border, it's certainly possible. President George W. Bush partially closed the border in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, implementing a rule that required each incoming person and vehicle be searched, which reportedly lead to days-long waits, per USA Today. President Ronald Reagan also did so after a federal agent was kidnapped and killed in Mexico back in the '80s, requiring extensive searches of every incoming vehicle for an entire week, according to The Daily Caller. Speaking about the possibility to USA Today, Gil Kerlikowske, former commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said:
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.'
However, that might not necessarily deter those coming across the border outside of an official point of entry. U.S. law also allows asylum seekers physically in the United States to claim asylum, regardless of their legal status or how they may have entered the country. Another big question is how the president might go about enforcing a full border closure along the nearly 2,000 mile border, aside from closing points of entry — back in the fall, Trump announced plans to send troops to the border ahead of the arrival of a caravan of migrants who were heading towards the border, and even suggested that they would be allowed to fire on migrants for acts like throwing rocks. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment at the time, but did not hear back. However, federal law prohibits troops from acting as domestic law enforcement, complicating matters should the president be considering this path. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment on who would be affected by the promised border closure and how it might be enforced, but did not hear back by the time of publication.
It could also end up being be bad for the U.S. economically. According to Bloomberg, $557.6 billion in two-way trade crosses the border each year, and estimates from the U.S. State Department say that $1.7 billion in goods and services cross the border legally everyday. So if Trump decides to close the border, according to a source speaking with CBS MoneyWatch, it could cost "hundreds of millions of dollars a day — maybe a billion" — which could quickly surpass the amount Trump is asking for the wall.
For what it's worth, Trump previously threatened to close the border, so maybe take this with a grain of salt. Back in November, he gave Congress the ultimatum of either funding the wall to keep "stone cold criminals" out of the country or having the border closed "permanently."
Then again, this is Trump we're talking about here, so who knows what'll happen. Just stay tuned.