- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 4, 2019

President Trump retreated Thursday from his tough talk of closing the southern border, saying his new solution will be to slap tariffs on Mexican auto imports if America’s southern neighbor doesn’t do more to stop the smuggling of drugs and people.

Mr. Trump said he may close the border eventually but wants to give Mexico a year’s grace period to show that it can make progress on its own.

“If the drugs don’t stop — Mexico can stop them if they want — we’re going to tariff the cars,” he said. “And if that doesn’t work, we’re going to close the border. But I think that will work.

“You know I will do it,” the president said. “I don’t play games. I will do it.”

He reversed his stance a day before he was scheduled to visit the border in California and after some of his staunchest allies on Capitol Hill told him in no uncertain terms that they wouldn’t back his threat to close the border. They said such a move would be economic suicide.



Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, said he understood Mr. Trump’s frustration with the soaring number of people who have figured out how to game the U.S. immigration system, with children and families surging into the country in record numbers.

“But the answer is not to punish those who are legally crossing the border,” Mr. Cruz said. “Closing legal points of entry would harm American commerce and legal transit between Mexico and the United States, and leave coyotes and human traffickers to roam free in the wilderness of our unsecured border.”

Sen. John Cornyn, another Texas Republican, warned Mr. Trump directly in a phone call Tuesday, according to The Dallas Morning News.

“I know you are very frustrated,” Mr. Cornyn told Mr. Trump. “Let us try to work on some other approaches.”

Mr. Trump said this week that he also would shut down the border if Congress didn’t take action to close “loopholes” that entice illegal immigrants to gain a foothold in the U.S.

On Thursday, though, he focused on Mexico and gave Congress a pass.

The president said it was his threat to close the border beginning last week that persuaded Mexico to stiffen its own enforcement. He said Mexico is now arresting more than 1,000 illegal immigrants on its southern border.

Mexico has been doing a very good job the last three or four days,” Mr. Trump said. “If that stops, we’re doing a big tariff deal.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which warned of severe economic consequences from a border closure, cheered Mr. Trump for recanting his threat.

“We welcome the president’s decision not to close the Mexican border,” said Neil Bradley, executive vice president at the nation’s biggest business lobby.

He said the president should go to the bargaining table with Congress to try to strike a deal that improves border security and includes broader changes. The chamber for years has backed legalization of illegal immigrants as well as a supply of foreign guest workers.

Mr. Bradley also urged Congress to spend more money on the ports of entry to speed up “legitimate trade and travel across the border.”

The border crisis is so bad that the Department of Homeland Security has pulled officers from the ports of entry and deployed them to help the Border Patrol care for illegal immigrants nabbed between the border crossings. But shifting officers has increased wait times at some of the ports of entry.

Democrats demanded that the administration restore the border officers to the ports and rejected the rest of Mr. Trump’s calls for action.

Key House Democrats proposed their own solutions to the border crisis this week. They focused not on the “pull” factors in the U.S. but on “push” factors that they said are encouraging people to leave El Salvador, Honduras and Central America.

Democrats called for U.S. taxpayers to fund nation-building in those countries.
As for the U.S.-Mexico border, they said the administration should shift personnel to be more welcoming to unauthorized migrants.

Democrats also are still battling Mr. Trump’s campaign to build a border wall.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said she will lead a lawsuit asking a federal judge to halt the president’s border emergency declaration and his shifting of funds from Pentagon accounts to wall construction.

She and fellow Democrats argued that Congress voted to give the president $1.375 billion this year to build a wall, and Mr. Trump then invoked the 1976 Emergencies Act and said he would shift billions of dollars more toward the wall.

“The president’s action clearly violates the Appropriations Clause by stealing from appropriated funds, an action that was not authorized by constitutional or statutory authority,” she said in a statement announcing the move.

The Democrats’ lawsuit is similar to one filed by Republicans when they controlled the House and President Obama was in office. Mr. Obama spent money on an Obamacare program after Congress zeroed out that funding in its spending bills.

That case resulted in an early ruling in favor of Republicans, but the case was ultimately settled once Mr. Trump took over from Mr. Obama.

The Trump administration says the border case is different because Congress explicitly gave the president expansive spending powers in the Emergencies Act. The Emergencies Act gives Congress a way to rein in the president by passing a resolution disapproving of the emergency.

Congress attempted to use that power but was unable to overcome Mr. Trump’s veto.

Legal analysts say Congress’ failure to use its legislative tools successfully could work against Mrs. Pelosi’s legal case.

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