Terry H. Schwadron
Dec. 30, 2018
Maybe President Trump thinks that talk of closing the Southern border is effective — r somehow humorous. It’s certainly cannot be serious because it would stop lots that we want along with what Americans don’t want. But then, who knows exactly what he means or how he would make that threat come about.
But, in apparent frustration over which tools will work to push his Wall plan and end the government shutdown, Trump made the proposal again on Friday.
Closing the border means stopping all immigration, but also stopping Americans from legally entering from the south, stopping trucks and trains delivering finished goods and the supplies for American industries, halting travel, food, clothing, machinery parts and everything else coming across from Mexico, among America’s top trading partners. It means closing Mexican and Central American markets to America’s producers.
In short, it represents a plan to shoot ourselves in the foot.
In addition to being an economic unlikelihood, such a move would violate the NAFTA or its newly minted replacement trade agreement and several American laws — along the lines of the Travel Ban that was thrown out multiple times by courts before severe rewriting.
As Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post noted, Trump “now threatens to ‘close the border.’ Unfortunately, the media repeats it, as though it’s a coherent dare. It’s meaningless, and the media should point it out.”
For openers, the shutdown means that non-essential Homeland Security personnel are not at work — hardly adding to the idea of a closed border. “Maybe the president means he won’t let legal residents and citizens back into the country from Mexico. That’s not legally possible. Trump cannot keep out people who, well, have a legal right to be here. Moreover, such a move would destroy a good deal of the economy of border states (e.g., Texas), and wreak hardship on the rest of us. Someone should ask border-state senators and governors — who generally do not even support the wall — how an attempt to shut the border would affect their states.”
Two federal courts already have decided that any efforts to curtail or redefine asylum are legally and constitutionally ineffective, that doing so is the responsibility of Congress, not the president. Judge Emmet G. Sullivan permanently enjoined the administration from removing migrants in the United States “without first providing credible fear determinations consistent with immigration laws.”
Trump added another absurd argument that the death of two young migrant children in U.S. detention was the fault of Democrats who oppose the idea of a Wall.
Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano acknowledges that Trumpcannot legally shut the border. “We know that because of federal statutes. They were last revised in 1986 when our relationship with migrants coming north was very different than it is now.” He continued that migrants who have an asylum claim, “meaning you are escaping a government that is pursing you, or escaping a government that is failing to enforce basic law and order, can enter the U.S. The president doesn’t want to hear this but it’s the law.”
Likewise, threats to stop foreign aid to Honduras and Guatemala unless they stop their residents from heading north are useless. The aid we sent is funneled towards building better policing against the criminal gangs who are making life in whole towns in those countries wholly hell. What do we gain by withholding the funds?
By relying on arguments that are further and further afield, the president is risking losing yet more support for a Wall. More members of Congress are saying openly that there are serious questions about the effectiveness of walls, and the president decides each day by tweet that the nature of the barrier is changing.
The real questions here are whether the shutdown shows that the Wall issue is masking the desire for a larger-scale solution approach to immigration. To get funds for a Wall, the president is going to need to address a wider set of issues ranging from permanent citizenship for DACA recipients to the clean-up of detention policies to assuring continuing asylum arrangements and making steps towards a path for eventual citizenship of those who cross our border illegally.
In his context, every deal has a price. If the Wall is so important a prize for his followers, the question then is what is the price. Instead, Trump talks emptily about far more drastic measures like closing the border altogether.
It is neither helpful nor effective in settling the outstanding issues.
Let’s Make Arguments Sane Again.