- The Washington Times - Friday, March 29, 2019

President Trump threatened Friday he will be “closing the border, or large sections” next week in response to what Homeland Security officials say is a complete breakdown of border security.

Mr. Trump lashed out at Mexico, accusing the country of failing to stop the tens of thousands of Central Americans traversing its territory, and said the border cut-off he envisions will punish America’s southern neighbor.

“If Mexico doesn’t immediately stop ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States throug [sic] our Southern Border, I will be CLOSING the Border, or large sections of the Border, next week,” he said on Twitter.

He added: “We lose so much money with them, especially when you add in drug trafficking etc.), that the Border closing would be a good thing!”

A senior Homeland Security official speaking later Friday said what Mr. Trump was talking about was moves already underway to pull officers from the ports of entry and deploy them to help the Border Patrol between the ports.

That, the official said, will mean closing down lanes of vehicle and pedestrian traffic through the border, which will slow commerce. But the official said they need the manpower elsewhere to babysit the surge of children and families rushing for the U.S. border.

“With these numbers, if we have to close ports to take care of all the numbers coming, we will do that,” she said.

The official said Mexico bears some responsibility for the number of Central Americans surging toward the U.S., since the new Mexican government last year began to issue humanitarian visas that have allowed tens of thousands of people to enter and make their way north.

“The humanitarian visas that they handed out in December and January, unfortunately, appear to have served themselves as a pull factor because they allow anyone who made it into Mexico to travel … to the United States,” the official said.

Mr. Trump has threatened to shut off the border before.

But this is the first time Homeland Security has said it’s taking steps to cut legal crossings.

“It’s on the table,” the Homeland Security official said.

In his tweets Friday Mr. Trump also demanded Congress move to pass new laws to reduce the incentives drawing illegal immigrants to the U.S.

Border officials say they’re on pace to nab more than 100,000 illegal immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in March. That’s the highest number since 2007 — but officials say this is even worse.

In the last decade, the crossers were mostly single adults from Mexico, who could be quickly returned.

The new flow is mostly Central American families or children traveling alone. They are almost impossible to remove quickly, and instead are released into communities where they disappear, then don’t show up for their eventual deportations.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says that of nearly 6,000 immigration cases over the last six months, only 8 percent of the migrants involved showed up for their hearings.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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