Government Watch / Keeping America Safe / Politics

Close the Border? Comes with Risks, But Worth Considering


What do you know?  President Trump is considering closing the southwest border, as an estimated 100,000 illegal aliens entered in March.  Declaring the “national emergency” – or a tipping point requiring executive action – permits him to reprogram money to the wall – but walls take time.  Closing the border, by contrast, is a fast act.  It comes with risks.

Mexico is – and has been – a good and bad neighbor.  On one hand, Mexico is our third largest agricultural export market, buying nearly $20 billion in US agricultural products, from soybeans and dairy to beef, fish and lumber.  Meanwhile, we are Mexico’s largest trading partner, buying roughly 80 percent of their exports.  We also cooperate on law enforcement, regional security and in a host of other ways.

That said, of late, Mexico could be doing more to protect their southern and northern borders from criminal and refugee inflows. By protecting their southern border more effectively from Central American caravans, drug and human traffickers, they would be – in effect – be protecting our southern border more effectively. 

President Trump obviously feels the Mexican Government can do more – and so can the Central American Governments.  He has summarily cut off aid to parts of Central America, which may or may not produce the outcome he intends.  He is threatening to close the US-Mexican border, if Mexico does not lean-in and help more to stem the flow of northern migrants.  

Historical perspective is often lost, but helps in such moments. Presidents Reagan, Nixon and Johnson each closed the US-Mexico border, to good effect.  Future threats to close it were taken seriously; bilateral relations were not irreconcilably damaged.  

Responding to Reagan and Nixon, Mexican authorities recognized the US was serious, and worked harder to coordinate on drug trafficking issues.  Both presidents also engaged their diplomatic teams – intensely – at the same time.  Johnson closed the border for security reasons after the Kennedy assassination.  So, this is not new.

Several questions top the moment.  Does President Trump have legal authority to do this?  How would it be operationalized?  What trade, diplomatic and security impact would the move have? How long would it last?  What is the best outcome?  And how do we get there?

In order, answers.  The President has constitutional and statutory authority to close our ports of entry.  Under Article II powers and 8 U.S.C, 1185, the President can close US borders.  The law reads in relevant part, under Section 212 (f), which dates to 1952:  “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”  So, the President has the authority.

How would he operationalize the move?  A combination of military and civilian law enforcement plus-ups would help.  New personnel – a surge – could occur at a crossing, half a dozen, or all of them.  Of course, realism is needed.   Trafficking corridors – tracts between points of entry – are theoretically closed, so personnel would go to official crossings.  We do have military personnel for the surge, but only for a limited period.   If the goal is serious Mexican collaboration to help stop human and drug trafficking, diplomatic efforts must occur behind the scenes, with intensity.

Can President Trump use a trade lever to secure a security advantage, as elsewhere?  Yes, he could.  He certainly could – but with risks.  Mexico might not respond in a constructive way.  If the border closing was pervasive and extended, their people would suffer, and so would we – although not as much. 

Reduced US-Mexico trade would – at least nominally – hit US businesses (especially agriculture) and – likely on higher prices – US consumers.  True, impact in the US would be modest by comparison to impact on Mexico, but Mexican authorities – if not brought around fast – would blame the US for political fallout on their side.  Political effects in the US would be a crap-shoot, positive in near term, negative over time.

Count on court challenges, on sundry legal bases, from disaffected businesses to political actors, and ardent anti-Trump activists.  Those suits would cut both ways, reinforcing the President’s resolve, elevating his commitment to border security, but perhaps disadvantaging him with moderates and independent voters.  Of course, he is likely to encounter a wild hare – some irreverent, indignant 9th Circuit judge, ready to reverse policy on a squirrelly doctrine.

As one thoughtful observer noted, “in any contest of wills between the president and the lower courts, in the end the Supreme Court would likely underscore the proposition that no sitting judge is reasonably poised to substitute his or her judgment for that of the chief executive in matters paramount to the safety and security of our country,” but that might take time.  Thus, “the more interesting question is what would happen between any injunction issued or sustained at the district or circuit court level and a ruling by the Supreme Court?”  Who knows? 

All this comes back to diplomatic, security and political calculus.  Our border is sacred, being violated, and needs to be protected.  Our way of life is affected by law-breaking illegal entrants, some of whom have claims to asylum, most of whom do not.  Our economy is the toast of the town, so many want in – or at least access to our entitlement programs.  What is to be done?

The border problem is big, real, and vexing.  The political impact of closing the US-Mexican border would be significant and immediate – for both countries.  Nevertheless, closing it might send a profound signal.  Disruptive impact on Mexico would be bigger than on the US, even if at a price.  But the outcome sought would be lost, without aggressive, backroom diplomacy. 

President Trump should have a list of objectives, including aggressive Mexican policing of southern and northern borders, higher levels of cooperation between federal law enforcement agencies, tailored information sharing, offers of law enforcement assistance, attention to legal and humanitarian issues, and outcomes to make the border closing meaningful.  

In short:  The potential for a border closing – and actual shutdown – could be effective tools for leveraging Mexican cooperation, coordination, commitment and results, but the closing alone will not do it.  Diplomacy – together with an eye on trade effects – is needed. 

Three presidents have done it.  Closing the border would generate a short window for intensely rethinking border concerns, law enforcement cooperation, diplomatic relations, and the security relationship between the US and Mexico.  A prolonged border closing would be a self-inflicted wound, affecting both economies adversely, taking more time to heal than to inflict and endure. 

The best course might be this:  The threat of closing is real, and President Trump is understood to mean what he says.  Nevertheless, our two countries have a great deal in common, an enormous amount – shared cultural emphasis on faith and family to hard work, horrific hurricane seasons, drug and human trafficking conundrums.  The best way out of this deep ditch is to cooperate.  The best time to do so is now. 

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Read more articles by Robert B. Charles

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Nick Vaseliv

Yes, close the border. Trump is doing what should have been done years ago by Congress to avert this situation. Their approval was at 12%. We have a definite swamp in Washington. This comes from a legal immigrant who became a Naturalized American citizen and proud of it !

Edward Curtis

I will gladly pay more for fruit and vegetables in exchange for a safer border – No Brainer!

Chuck Whieldon

I read earlier this morning that DHS is considering closing the border to foot traffic while allowing trucks to pass through. This would address the business impact. I would personally like him to declare Mexico off-limits to American tourists. That wouldn’t hurt us at all but would cripple Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, and Cancun among others.


I agree to closing the border. Also, I think they should STOP entitlement to illegals no matter what their situation. If they know they will not receive any type of benefit they might change their mind about coming here. We need to stop with the freebies.

Phyllis A.

I cannot believe what is happening in our beloved country. People transgressing our laws and Congress – both Demos and Reps – do not care. How disgusting. Ship them all to where they all live and see how they like it. Never happen. Freebies galore and illicit citizenship soon. Yep, the Demos will be in power forever now as soon as they get them citizenship. Oh, wait, some are proposing that illegals should vote so they do not even have to bother with citizenship rights. As I’ve said before, Orwell’s 1984 comes to pass. BUILD THAT WALL!!!!

Katherine Teissere

Congress has left President Trump no other alternative. The Democrats and maybe some RINOs are in complete denial that there is a crisis. Perhaps those deniers could go to the border and help with the medical needs and change diapers?


I live in west Texas, in the Permian basin and I’ve read all sorts of comments on the impact closing the border would have on oil industry ( we export oil to Mexico) produce, and other things that will be impacted! I think an emediate closure to all foot traffic , and automobile traffic at all ports of entry would do huge amounts of good! If that doesn’t work, then close to all traffic! We have survived in the past, we can survive now! Mexico must be forced to take responsibility for their part in this mess! Stop the influx at their southern border and help us stop it here! If they secured their southern border, a great deal of our problem would be solved!

Buddy Saunders

Yes, close the border. My wife and I back Trump on this 100%.


The illegals crossing the borders are a worse threat than the drugs. Illegal drugs don’t vote. I believe the increased border crossings are a direct threat to our election process. They come here with nothing but their hands stuck out and the “GimmeDats” want to feed, house them and provide their every need. All they have to do is vote Democrat. They are leaving a socialist society to come here and set up another one. Give them a 30 day work visa and at the end of 30 days they are not able to make it on their own, send them back with the chance for trying 1 more time. It is utterly BS for these people to show up over here and expect the American taxpayers to provide for them.


What most people do not consider is the FACT that mexico depend more on us that we do them. Someone made the comment that we would run short of fruit and vegetables here without their trade. Well, we have several states that produce fruit and vegetables in abundance why not BUY AMERICAN??? Texas, Florida, California are three of the main growers I am speaking of. Shouldn’t we consider buying AMERICAN goods FIRST??? Besides if the border is closed for a while, it will be the mexican growers who suffer and possibly by the suffering raise up and DO SOMETHING about their plight. Also, the problem we have in some tainted vegetables will drop as well.

Stephen Russell

I say Yes & allow Legit products into US from Mexico, Screen incoming personnel into US IF any.
Otherwise seal off.
Feel for those who commutte X border to work.
Project outcomes of closing on industries, See Long term & short Term
& same for Mexico.
On + side Mexico makes govt reforms during time.
Deter cartels??
End drug tunnels?
More can be done on Mexico side.


Mexico is doing nothing to prevent this mass of illegals from coming to our border so the President should close the border until the wall is built.

Chuck P

It’s too bad that congress could not get up (especially the Democrats) and support the President so he doesn’t have to do this on his own. It’s no wonder the uninformed and uninterested think the President is a dictator. He is getting no help from the left. Those jerks are more interested in perusing “investigations” against the President. Please do something to earn your salary! Thanks to all the Republicans who are trying to help the President


If immigrants are coming into our country because of our entitlement program, why don’t we make that program undesirable?

Michael Javick

President Eisenhower removed mega amounts of illegal Mexicans so the returning troops would have jobs–FACT–WHY CAN’T WE DO THAT?

Michael Javick



Are we the only country in the world that needs to be seen as ‘nice’? I say close the border first. If that doesnt work, put an embargo on remittances. For those that dont know, remittences are this: money sent back from here either earned or scammed from the welfare state we so generously provide to all comers. It used to be said of the soviet union that they only understand power, not friendly persuasion. The current socialist president of mexico is likely to require more demonstrations of resolve than his predecessors.

Susan Jobson

If it’s the only way to stop these illegals from entering our country then shut the border down

David Huff

Imports from Mexico take away manufacturing jobs. While at it, immigrants from Mexico need to be taxed for sending money back home. That would be one way to pay for the wall.


How about jailing the enablers. Pretty easy to see who is encouraging this and arrest them immediately as the come back into the country. Sell everything they have to support their new friends.