President Donald Trump on Friday called on Mexico to stop all illegal immigration, escalating a repeated threat by adding a timeline: Trump said he would close large swaths or all of the southern border as early as “next week” if the Mexican government did “immediately” stop all undocumented migrants.
The threat to close the border is one that Trump has made and not followed through on before — he suggested closing it during the December government shutdown, and also earlier this week in accusing Central American governments of squandering U.S. aid. But he has not yet attached a short time frame to taking such a drastic measure.
“This would be so easy for Mexico to do,” Trump said in a string of Twitter posts. “Besides, we lose so much money with them, especially when you add in drug trafficking etc.), that the Border closing would be a good thing!”
The president has also attached this round of threats to increasingly harsher language about the thousands of people have tried to flee violence and poverty on their way to the United States.
The evening before Trump threatened to close the border, he appeared at a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he went on an extensive and angry screed about immigration, calling the problem an “invasion” and referring to the plight of asylum-seekers as a “big fat con job.”
Trump’s comments about the border come just as the White House is shifting its efforts squarely over to winning 2020 voters. The administration has only a nascent plan for health care, a deciding issue for voters, but the issue of undocumented immigration has always been red meat for his base.
It was not clear which parts of the border the president would close if Trump is not satisfied with the actions that Mexico would take to tamp down on illegal border crossings.
Administration officials this week said the situation has become untenable. In a news conference in El Paso, Texas, on Wednesday, Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of the federal Customs and Border Protection, said that an influx of migrants had reached a “breaking point.”
In February, there were 76,000 crossings at the border, which marked an 11-year high and signaled that the Trump administration’s harsher policies have not stopped the flow of people trying to enter the country.