President Donald Trump puts his tough stance on immigration back ahead this week with plans for a Friday tour to the southern border and possible new executive actions However, days after Trump renewed his long-standing threat to close off the southern border, even administration officials and congressional presidents were confused and guessed. to his next move on a defining topic of his presidency.
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And some Hill Republicans warned that any dramatic disturbance of the regular cross-border traffic between the United States and Mexico could bring Trump into a new confrontation with his own party whose leaders warned about closed parts or the whole border would cause economic chaos.
On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security announced plans to require a large number of non-Mexican asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while waiting for their cases to be resolved and to accelerate the redeployment of 750 customs authorities to treat arriving immigrants .
Meanwhile, Trump is considering the administration to shut down some of the entry ports or prevent certain types of vehicles or people from crossing the border as he tries to force Mexico to increase its enforcement, three outside advisers told POLITICO.
"He's trying to get Mexico's attention," said Roy Beck, President of NumbersUSA, a group advocating tighter immigration restrictions.
The administration has already taken some of these actions, even though they have received a little attention. Customs and Border Protection said in a March memorandum to shipping companies, importers and other companies that it would stop a Sunday screening program for commercial trucks by a Nogales, Ariz., Gateway and accuse a "unprecedented humanitarian crisis and border security crisis" of the cut .
The administration is considering ways to reduce the number of people crossing the US. It can mean closing some lanes in the entrance gates or limiting who can cross to only day workers. Another proposal being discussed will carry passenger vehicles – but not commercial trucks – from crossing the border.
However, closing the border or even limiting the flow of people through ports of entry would not prevent migrants from attempting to cross the border illegally.
Even some people close to the White House called Trump's comments "bluster" and predicted he would not close the border from one of his biggest trading partners. Mexico is the third largest trading partner of the United States with over $ 600 billion in cross-border trade last year.
"I understand the president's frustration, but the unintended consequences of it would be bad for everyone: financial, diplomatic," said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who asked how such a move could disrupt the negotiations with Mexico to deal with migrations from the northern triangle. "I take him very seriously. But I think we should have a longer conversation about unintended consequences."
"That's part of the way he negotiates, but I'm not sure it's a special one good idea, and I'm not sure it will be the desired result, "said Senate majority whip john thune of south dakota of the potential closed border. "Tactically, it does not get a result and probably has many unintended consequences … there is much bilateral trade at the border."
Trump will travel to Calexico, California, to turse the border Friday on a West Coast swing that also includes 2020 campaign fundraising. The White House has not published details of the journey.
Asked if he believes Trump is serious about closing the border, then replied Richard Shelby (R-Ala.): "Oh I have no idea. You had to ask him about it. "
Trump has broken down immigration as a central theme of his presidency, but has struggled to get his proposals past the Congress Republicans. In February, he declared a national emergency to unlock Pentagon funds, which he can unilaterally control to a border wall and spend money from other projects. This action was immediately challenged in court.
Sen. Mitt Romney in Utah said he "takes the president seriously" and wants more details on how it will affect trade and economy. Romney was one of a dozen Republicans who averted Trump's emergency call last month, revealing a sharp intra-partition over border policy.
Most Republicans agree that there is a crisis on the border, but disagree with tactics such as closing entry ports and the emergency call.
According to a current and former DHS official who is familiar with the situation, Trump is once again considering creating a so-called immigration army, a person responsible for a problem affecting a dozen departments and agencies, including homeland security, state, legal , labor market, housing and urban development as well as health and human services. The post does not need senate confirmation.
Some of the people being considered are Francis Cissna, Director of Citizenship and Immigration Service; Thomas Douglas Homan, formerly acting Director of Immigration and Customs; former Kansas State Secretary Kris Kobach; and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, according to the former DHS official. Michael Neifach, who worked for former President George W. Bush, was approached for the job last year, the former official said.
The white house did not answer questions on Monday. But on Sunday, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway insisted that Trump's speech on bold action should not be dismissed. "It's certainly not a bluff. You can take the president seriously," she told Fox News.
On Friday, Trump renewed earlier threats to close the border after his administration announced it was at a "breakpoint" that dealt with paperwork at the border, where agents see an influx of immigrants. Border Patrol arrested more than 66,000 immigrants in February, the highest monthly sum since March 2009 – and officials have said the number rose even higher last month. "Mexico has to do something, or I'll close the border," Trump said, saying to correct cross-border statistics.
Trump has long criticized Mexico for failing to stop migrants from Central America from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras from coming to the US border. But he had not previously set a timeline on his threat to close the border.
On Monday, Land Security Minister Kirstjen Nielsen ordered an extension of the administration's strategy "stay in Mexico", forcing some no-n-Mexican asylum seekers to wait in Mexico pending resolution of their asylum cases in the US
The Secretary said her department would expand the policy – formally known as the migrant protection protocols – "returning hundreds of additional migrants a day." The program has already been launched at and between multiple entry points in California and Texas.
In a note on customs and border protection, Nielsen also called on the Agency to speed up a plan to redistribute 750 customs officers to assist with border patrol efforts to treat and house immigrants.
In a related message, she added that CBP should investigate redistribution of more staff, but should notify her if it describes more than 2,000 staff in emergency work.
"The crisis at our border is getting worse and DHS will do everything to end it," she said in a written statement. "We do not want to be idiotic, while Congress does not act once again, so every opportunity is on the table."
The number of family members intercepted at the southwestern border increased in March, according to provisional CBP statistics. While overall arrests remain below the higher levels of the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, the Trump administration claims that families and children present unique humanitarian and security issues.
Last week, Nielsen urged Congress to provide additional resources to deal with the growing number of immigrants. In addition, she pushed lawmakers to change immigration law to allow children to be detained for more than 20 days – the current border set by a federal court system – and allow rapid expulsion of unaccompanied minors from Central America.
Trump administration has implemented a number of tight policies to deter illegal immigration and asylum seekers, only to see a record number of family members trapped across the border in recent months. Border Patrol estimated that it arrested more than 55,000 family members in March, an increase of 520 percent in the same month the year before.
Last week, Trump ordered the state department to cut support for El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, because these countries have refugees have not taken enough to deter migrants from traveling north. The State Department announced Congress Offices in recent days that it would redirect $ 450 million in the fiscal year 2018 to the countries and investigate already committed funds to see if they could be diverted.
"Cracking down and being harder has not deterred anyone from coming," said Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. "Ultimately, it would stop people from coming if these countries improve conditions on the ground."
Marianne LeVine has contributed to this report.