Trump’s threat to close the southern border
Frustrated by a growing surge of Central American migrants applying for asylum, President Trump this week threatened to close the border with Mexico and ordered the State Department to slash $500 million in humanitarian aid to three Central American nations. About 76,000 migrants were intercepted or surrendered to authorities along the border in February, a 31 percent increase from January. Border apprehensions were on pace to exceed 100,000 in March, the highest level in a decade. With holding pens running at 400 percent capacity, immigration officials fenced in hundreds of migrants under an El Paso highway bridge; later, more than 2,000 migrants were simply released into Texas border towns. U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said the influx has stretched the agency’s resources to the “breaking point.”
Trump initially vowed to close “100 percent” of the border if Mexico didn’t take fast action to stop the flow of migrants across its territory. Administration officials, however, said trucks might be allowed to cross the border, after alarmed business leaders and congressional Republicans said a complete closing would have a painful economic impact. Nearly $1.7 billion in goods and services cross the border every day. Trump said he won’t rule out closing the border if the crossings continue. “Sure, it’s going to have a negative impact on the economy,” Trump said. “But security is most important.”
What the editorials said
“Even the most partisan Democrats are hard-pressed at this point to deny that the border crisis President Trump has long been warning about actually exists,” said the New York Post. Our immigration laws, which allow virtually anyone to claim asylum once they’ve reached U.S. soil, desperately need updating. But instead of closing these loopholes, Democrats reflexively denounce anything the president does to get control of our border, forcing him to seek increasingly drastic solutions. They should help Trump solve this crisis “or get out of the way.”
Trump’s so-called solutions are “both self-destructive and self-defeating,” said The Baltimore Sun. Closing the border with our third-largest trading partner would seriously damage our economy, disrupting supply chains and raising consumer prices. The U.S. imports nearly half of its produce from Mexico. By one estimate, avocados would run out within three weeks of the border closing. Cutting off humanitarian aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras is equally idiotic. “It defies common sense to expect that making desperate countries more desperate will somehow stem the flow of refugees.”
What the columnists said
Mexico is already cooperating “extensively” with the U.S. on migration, said Dara Lind in Vox.com. Mexican authorities detain thousands of migrants and participate in the Trump administration’s practice of “metering” the number of asylum seekers at ports of entry allowed to present their case each day. But threatening to cripple the Mexican economy and cutting off aid to Central America is a good way to end the partnership. “Diplomacy requires more than just bullying.”
It wasn’t Trump who broke our immigration system, said Rich Lowry in NationalReview.com. Laws and court rulings make it impossible “to quickly return minors from Central American countries,” and they and the adults accompanying them “realize that we are helpless to exclude them.” So they surrender to border agents, and hope to be released into the U.S. pending hearings on their asylum claims. In a sane world, Congress would see the sad spectacle of immigration officials “scrambling to handle a flood of humanity showing up every day,” and change the laws and provide more resources, so that this influx could be brought under control. The Democrats’ refusal to do so “is a dereliction of duty of the highest order.”
The only effective and moral way to slow the exodus from Central America, said Will Bunch in Philly.com, is to address the abject poverty, lawlessness, and drug-gang violence there. Migrants think they and their children will die if they don’t walk over 1,000 miles to the U.S. border, so they’ll take any risk to keep coming. But “Trump’s brand is crisis,” and he’d rather that this one continue so his base can see images of thousands of brown-skinned foreigners trying to enter the country. As heart-breaking as those images are, “the American president is hell-bent on making things worse.”
Cover illustration by Howard McWilliam.
On the cover (clockwise): Paddington Bear, Harry Potter, Adele, Prince Harry, Prince William, Duchess of Sussex, Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth II, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Theresa May, Nigel Farage, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Jeremy Corbyn.
Cover photos from AP, Reuters, Newscom ■