President Trump took to Twitter recently to reiterate his hardline immigration stance with the threat of “CLOSING the Border.”
Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, appearing on MSNBC’s “Meet the Press” on Monday, argued that there are clear flaws in Trump’s plans for a border wall as a means to stop illegal immigration.
“You don’t have to be the former Secretary of Homeland Security to know that you cannot shut down a 1900-mile border,” Johnson said. “It’s a little like decreeing it should stop raining.”
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters on Tuesday that closing the border is “not our first choice” and President Trump’s “number one priority is to protect life.”
‘Mexico is a huge trading partner of ours‘
As it stands, there are 655 miles of border barriers. The Trump administration has secured funding to bring that total to 800 miles, although it remains unclear when that will be completed. However, Johnson does not think that end goal will ever be reached.
“At most, the president can arguably legally shut down ports of entry,” Johnson said. “But the effect of that would be principally to close down lawful immigration and lawful commerce. Mexico is a huge trading partner of ours, and commerce goes in out of Mexico and the U.S. on an hourly, daily basis.”
In 2017, over $550 billion in goods were traded between the border, “making Mexico our third-biggest trading partner for goods behind Canada and China,” CBS News noted. U.S. exports to China reached $243.3 billion, “while trade in services accounted for another $58 billion.”
The Associated Press detailed how officials say that closing the border would inflict "severe economic harm,” according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as daily life would be disrupted both on the border and in American stores across the country.
“If trade were interrupted, U.S. producers would suffer crippling disruptions of their supply chains, American families would see prices spike for food and cars, and U.S. exporters would be cut off from their third-largest market,” Dan Griswold, an economist at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, told the AP.
Johnson noted that simply shutting the border would generally be a rash way of dealing with a very real issue.
“100,000 migrants in a month is a crisis,” Johnson said. “It’s a crisis in Central America. It’s a crisis for our border security personnel to try to deal with that. And it’s a crisis for the communities along the border that have to somehow absorb this population. … Now, the question becomes what to do about it. There are no quick fixes.”
‘We actually already have an immigration czar’
Over the weekend, the State Department announced an end to foreign assistance programs for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. This comes after Trump claimed the countries have done nothing to help the U.S. stop the influx of illegal immigration originating from these nations.
Johnson argued that cutting aid “is the exact wrong thing to do.”
He added: “As long as the underlying conditions in Central America continue to persist, we’re going to be dealing with this problem over and over again. This requires a long-term investment to deal with the underlying problem. There are things we can do. There are smart investments we can make in border security.”
Johnson’s suggestion is to work with the Mexican government to help them secure their southern border, which is smaller and more discrete with Central America.
And as for the Trump administration’s plans to appoint an immigration czar to manage the influx of migrants?
“We actually already have an immigration czar,” Johnson said. “It's called the Secretary of Homeland Security.”
Adriana is an associate editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @adrianambells.