President Trump spent the early part of this week threatening to seal off the U.S. border with Mexico, his administration’s response to a serious situation at the border.
It’s mostly Central and South American citizens seeking asylum from poverty, drug cartels and death squads. Facing such threats, most of us would hit the road.
The fact is that Trump has made the border-closing threats in the past, playing to his voting base, seeing as how the 2020 presidential election campaign began a couple of years ago, and the president is anxious to shift the public narrative away from ongoing investigations that focus on him.
First, effectively closing all 2,000 miles of our border with Mexico would be impossible. However, shutting down the dozens of ports of entry is a possibility, and that seems to be the target of Trump’s recent threats.
Many economists say shutting down commerce between Mexico and the United States would be catastrophic, and likely plunge the nation into a full-on recession. That could effectively be the end of Trump’s political career, so such a move seems to be extremely unlikely.
Closing even one of the dozen or so major ports of entry could also be a grim mistake, and that is doubly true with regard to California’s economy. For example, the White House ordered a brief closing of the San Ysidro entry port on a Sunday late last November, the administration’s response to a confrontation with a migrant caravan. The crossing was closed for about five hours — and U.S. businesses in that region lost an estimated $5.3 million in sales.
White House officials said earlier this week that President Trump is serious about this border-shutdown threat, but gave no substantive details beyond that.
The U.S. has 47 ports of entry along the border with Mexico, and economists reckon more than a million people come and go across the border each day, while the value of commerce being mostly trucked through the ports has been set at about $1.7 billion a day.
Last year, those ports saw $265 billion in U.S.-manufactured goods being exported, and $346 billion in goods being imported. That’s a lot of commerce, and one must wonder how the U.S. economy would fare without that business activity.
Actually, experts don’t wonder. One economist said if the border is sealed, the U.S. economy will dive into a hard recession within a few months.
The timing of such an economic crash would be an even bigger disaster for President Trump’s re-election hopes. Just think back to the first Bush administration, and George H.W.’s campaign promise about reading his lips, no new taxes. A promise soon broken, forcing the late president into early retirement.
Among Trump’s signature achievements so far is a strong national economy, which although slowing a bit, is still vibrant enough to keep consumer spirits high, and businesses continuing to hire new workers. It would be absolutely suicidal from a political standpoint to force all that to come crashing down.
Closing the border would therefore harm not just states along the border with Mexico, but the economic ripples would race out across the nation. That’s not us speculating, it is the consensus among U.S economists, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and most members of Congress.
There is a crisis at the border, created by people running for their lives from dysfunctional governments, poverty and murderous gangs. Closing the border will not resolve that crisis, but would foment a much bigger one for Americans.