President Forgoes U.S.-Mexico Border Closing

April 8th, 2019 by Drew Vass, Executive Editor

After rattling some government officials and industry associations with the threat of closing the U.S.-Mexico border, President Donald Trump backed off of that suggestion last week, instead relying on Mexican officials to take corrective measures. Backed by hopes that the Mexican government will move to quash illegal immigration, the President has for now postponed the idea, while warning, “Well, we’re going to shut it down if we have to.” Mexico, on the other hand, “can do it very easily,” the President says, referring to border security, adding, “They’ve been doing a very good job over the last four days.”

Meanwhile, others see the decision to keep the U.S.-Mexico border open as a near miss for economic calamity, suggesting that even a temporary closing would post severe consequences for U.S.-based companies and the economy. With approximately $1.7 billion in goods crossing the U.S.-Mexico border each day, officials for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce suggest that a closing would, “inflict severe economic harm on American families, workers, farmers and manufacturers” nationwide.

While sharing the administration’s concerns over illegal immigration, nearly half a million people legally cross the southern border each day, says U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive vice president and chief policy officer Neil Bradley—including workers, students, shoppers and tourists. “We share the administration’s concerns over the massive influx of migrants seeking to enter our country along our southern border,” Bradley says. “It is one reason we have called on Congress to take steps to secure the border and fix our broken immigration system. We oppose, however, closing the border,” he adds, welcoming the President’s decision to forgo such a move. Congress and the president should use these times, Bradley suggests, “to enact border security and immigration reform,” adding, “Congress should also ensure Customs and Border Protection officials receive the resources they need to reduce the excessive wait times affecting legitimate trade and travel across the border.”

In 2018, the estimated total value of plastics industry shipments crossing the U.S.-Mexico border totaled more than $28 billion, says Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) interim president and CEO Patty Long. That, Long says, totals approximately $78 million worth of economic activity every day from the plastics industry alone.

Even a temporary closure of the U.S.-Mexico border will harm the economic well-being of the plastics industry here in the U.S. and in Mexico, jeopardizing operations and putting the jobs of plastics workers at risk,” she warns. “Even more damaging is the uncertainty that such a move would create—disrupting short-term operations and creating doubt for the customers of American companies who need to know that their supply lines won’t be impacted by government action.”

At a time when the U.S. leverages tariffs in attempts to level the playing field between domestic and foreign-based material providers, amid a border closing, global competitors would swoop in, Long suggests, looking to take advantage of any opportunity to shift U.S.- and Mexico-based companies to overseas providers. It would also preclude the passing of legitimate workers to and from opportunities between U.S.- and Mexico-based businesses, says Congressman Joaquin Castro, Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Vice Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. A closing would affect Texas more than any other state, he suggests.

Millions of dollars in trade pass through the U.S.-Mexico border each day, and billions every year,” Castro says, adding that, “Many U.S. companies rely on the ability to send and receive goods to and from Mexico.” American workers cross the border to work at American companies in Mexico, he says, as do families living on either side of the border to visit relatives.

Closing the border in a dramatic media stunt would be a severe self-inflicted wound to the national economy and would likely violate U.S. treaty obligations and federal law that govern the rights of asylum seekers at ports of entry,” declares Connecticut attorney general William Tong.

With a closed border averted for now, in a new strategic move, “We’re going to tariff the cars coming in that they make in Mexico, if we have to,” declares the President, while warning, “I will tell you, we’re going to shut it down if we have to.”

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