On Friday, in an apparent effort to make good on one of the implicit promises he shouted at the MAGA faithful during his first post-Mueller stadium rally in Grand Rapids, Donald Trump threatened to close the border with Mexico within days.
The threat came amid warnings that the manufactured crisis at the border is rapidly becoming a real crisis thanks, arguably, to the administration’s own policies. Here, specifically, is what the president said:
Mexico has the strongest [immigration laws], & they make more than $100 Billion a year on the U.S. Therefore, CONGRESS MUST CHANGE OUR WEAK IMMIGRATION LAWS NOW, & Mexico must stop illegals from entering the U.S……..through their country and our Southern Border. Mexico has for many years made a fortune off of the U.S., far greater than Border Costs. If Mexico doesn’t immediately stop ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States through our Southern Border, I will be CLOSING………the Border, or large sections of the Border, next week.
As noted last week, the prospect of closing the border was likely to be met with consternation (and that’s putting it mildly) on Capitol Hill, especially in light of the fact that Trump had already rankled lawmakers by vetoing a bipartisan resolution aimed at nullifying his emergency declaration.
In addition to creating still more ill will among lawmakers, closing the border would obviously have economic consequences. Here are a couple of quick passages from NPR:
Closing the entire U.S. border with Mexico would also put the brakes on more than $1.6 billion worth of goods that cross back and forth every day, including 50 million pounds of fresh Mexican produce that now fills 100 warehouses in Nogales, Ariz.
One importer warned that the U.S. would run out of avocados in three weeks, but guacamole is the least of it. Fresh tomatoes, peppers, melons and eggplant for the whole country would soon be in short supply.
“Probably over half of what most consumers put in their shopping bag when it comes to fresh produce, they would find reduced quantities and higher prices,” said Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.
By God, Trump will drive up inflation one way or another, if not by piling fiscal stimulus atop a late-cycle dynamic, and if not by slapping tariffs on everything, then by closing America’s borders entirely and creating an avocado shortage which, one assumes, would be psychologically devastating for scores of Millennials.
In any event, Trump appeared to backtrack on his border threat on Tuesday, ostensibly because Mexico has “made a big step over the past two days” when it comes to “apprehending people”. Here’s what he had to say while seated opposite NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
That came hours after Trump claimed, on Twitter, that “after many years (decades), Mexico is apprehending large numbers of people at their Southern Border, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador” which he (again) accused of “taking U.S. money and doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for us, just like the Democrats in Congress!”
What exactly it is that Trump expects Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to “do” for the United States is anyone’s guess (after all, if they were in position to “do something for us”, they presumably wouldn’t need the assistance programs), but as you can see from the clip above, the White House is sticking with the contention that they are packing caravans with “bad hombres”.
Trump also unveiled a “strategy” to solve this crisis, something he claims could be achieved in “45 minutes” and would entail, “to be honest with you”, doing away with judges. Here, we’ll let him tell you about it:
Incidentally, “getting rid of judges” is an idea that you can be absolutely sure has crossed Trump’s mind outside of the narrow context of immigration.
Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell did not mince words when it came to explaining what closing the border would mean for the economy. Take it away, Mitch:
Yes, Mitch “would hope we would not be doing that sort of thing”.
So if/when Trump does shut the border entirely – driving up the cost of eggplant to $86/pound in the process – the White House should be fully prepared to hear a “what do you mean ‘we,’ Kemosabe?” from GOP lawmakers.
Incredibly, Trump managed to turn this into an opportunity to brag. When asked about the potential economic costs of closing the border, the president exclaimed that “of course” there would be economic consequences because “new NAFTA” is so incredible.
You’ve got to love how he tries to rope in Stoltenberg. “Am I right, Jens?” (“Nope.”)
Finally, in the interest of providing you with a bit of comic relief to take the edge off, here is Trump explaining how his father was born in “a very wonderful place in Germany”:
Fred Trump was born in New York.