The Trump administration might face a real immigration crisis at the border after all — a crisis of its own making. The crisis long claimed by President Donald Trump, but until recently not supported by facts, has prompted Trump to threaten full closure of the U.S.-Mexican border and threaten billions of dollars in international commerce.
Trump demands that Mexico take action to reduce illegal border crossings — something Mexico already is doing. He threatens to withhold vital aid to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala unless they stop people from leaving, even though the State Department has long condemned countries that restrict their people’s freedom of travel. Trump also would punish major U.S. businesses — auto manufacturers, petrochemical and agricultural concerns and a vast array of consumer-product producers — involved in America’s $600 billion in annual commerce with Mexico. Perishable food could wind up rotting in Mexico while U.S. supermarkets scramble to stock their shelves.
As a result, Reuters news agency reports, transport vehicles are swarming legal transit points along the border to get through before a closure occurs. That’s a natural panic response whenever people fear a window of opportunity could close. Consider the reaction after major mass-shooting incidents: a rush on gun stores prompted by an irrational fear that firearm sales will soon be banned.
The same panic response apparently is behind a surge among thousands of Central Americans contemplating migration. When word reached them that the U.S. president wanted to build a wall and crack down on unauthorized immigration, many rushed northward, believing their window of opportunity was closing.
The Trump administration now faces an escalated influx of migrant families seeking asylum, and it doesn’t have enough shelter and resources to handle them.
The numbers are still far below peak immigration figures of decades past, but for Trump, it constitutes a crisis.
News media interviews with recently arrived asylum-seekers indicate that many had rushed their plans because of Trump’s well-publicized threats.
“I watch the news, and, yes, that’s our fear — that the laws will change, and if you bring a child, they won’t let you enter. It’s better to come sooner. We sold what little we had in our country and hit the road,” immigrant Irsi Castillo, a young mother from Honduras, told National Public Radio.
Even after Trump’s 2016 election, border apprehensions stayed on a downward trend. But as his border threats escalated ahead of the November midterm elections, so did the migrant surge. If Trump truly wants to reduce the pressure on overworked border and immigration personnel, his first order of business should be to tone down the rhetoric.