The Hindu Business Line
SHUTTING THE BORDER Security is more important to me than Mexico trade, says Trump
US President Donald Trump acknowledged on Tuesday that closing the southern border with Mexico could damage the US economy, but said protecting America’s security was more important than trade.
In remarks from the Oval Office, Trump reiterated his threat to shut the border if Mexico, America’s third largest trading partner, cannot restrict a flow of asylumseekers trying to cross into the US. But the President’s economic team, concerned about the damage from such a move, said it was looking for ways to limit the fallout if Trump does so.
“Sure, it’s going to have a negative impact on the economy,” Trump said, adding, “but security is most important.” “Security is more important to me than trade,” he said.
Republican lawmakers, economists and business groups largely disagree with that assessment and warned this week that closing the border could cripple the flow of goods and workers and devastate US automakers and farmers, as well as other industries that depend on Mexico for sales and goods.
Is the decision feasible?
“Closing down the border will have a potentially catastrophic economic impact on our country,” Sen Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, and the Senate majority leader, said.
Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said that “a full shutdown of the US-Mexican border of more than several weeks would be the fodder for recessions in both Mexico and the US.”
Trump’s economic advisers have briefed him on the potential financial damage from a border shutdown and started looking for ways to mitigate it, including possibly keeping certain trading avenues open. Larry Kudlow, Director of the National Economic Council, said that the Trump administration was trying to secure the border without harming the economy.
“The question is,” he said, “can we deal with that and not have any economic damage? I think the answer is we can. People are looking at different options.”
But business leaders say there is no way to contain the damage from even a partial shutdown of the 2,000-mile border that the US shares with Mexico. Nearly $1.7 billion of goods and services flow across the border daily, as well as nearly a half-million legal workers, students, shoppers and tourists, the US Chamber of Commerce said Monday. On Tuesday, officials with the chamber called a partial border shutdown “uncharted territory” and said such a policy would have negative economic consequences, particularly for communities along the border.
“We don’t know whether that is feasible or not,” said Neil Bradley, the chamber’s Executive Vice-President and Chief Policy Officer.
Trump’s pledge to close the border comes in response to what officials with the Department of Homeland Security say is an increase in migrant families who are flooding America’s immigration system, leading to overflowing detention centers and mass releases of migrants.
While 76,000 migrants crossed the border in February, that number is nowhere near the migration levels seen in the early 2000s. And a majority of the migrants crossing the border now are Central American families looking for asylum, as opposed to Mexican individuals looking for work. Homeland security officials could quickly deport Mexican individuals seeking employment, but, by law, they cannot swiftly deport Central American families or unaccompanied children.
Homeland security officials have said they expect the number of crossings to surpass 100,000 this month.