President Trump Suggests U.S.-Mexico Border Shutdown, U.S Customs and Border Protection Mobilizes 750
WASHINGTON, DC - Last Friday, President Donald Trump sent a series of tweets and later confirmed with reporters that the executive branch was considering closing the U.S.-Mexico border, or a large swath thereof the border, if Mexico does not halt illegal immigration into the country. President Trump’s proclamation followed on the heels of an announcement, by the U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, that the CBP would reassign 750 CBP officers to the border, resulting in a “a slowdown in the processing of trade.”
“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,” President Trump tweeted. “This would be so easy for Mexico to do, but they just take our money and ‘talk.’ 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 later repeated that assertion in front of reporters, first at an event in Florida, The Washington Post reported, where he said: “If they don’t stop them, we’re closing the border. We’ll close it. And we’ll keep it closed for a long time. I’m not playing games. Mexico has to stop it.”
And later at another public appearance, President Trump noted that “there’s a very good likelihood” of an impending shutdown. But despite the President’s assertion, many worry that the immediate economic impact on the United States would be negative—particularly with regard to produce.
The New York Daily News noted that, were the southern border closed, U.S. supplies of avocados would grind to a halt. Mexico, the news source reported, supplies more than 90 percent of U.S. avocados, as of 2016, and also provides a great deal of the U.S.’s supply of watermelons, cucumbers, chili peppers, and berries.
The United Fresh Produce Association issued a statement related to the announcement this week, encouraging broader discussion of immigration reform and warning about the economic impact of a slowdown in the processing of trade and of the potential dangers of a border shutdown.
“Because of the large reassignment of CBP officers, importers and exporters should expect to see ‘a slowdown in the processing of trade’ along the U.S.-Mexico border for an unspecified period,” the association noted. “CBP will be forced to close some processing lanes, potentially in the ports of El Paso, Laredo, Tucson, and San Diego. In addition, officials at the port in Nogales, AZ, have announced closing commercial border traffic on Sundays.”
The association continued, lamenting the “significant harm” these slowdowns would have and noting that the uncertainty posed by the threat of a border shutdown would be deleterious to the produce industry.
“These steps will cause significant harm to growers, wholesale distributors, transportation companies, grocery stores, restaurants, and most importantly, U.S. consumers,” United Fresh continued. “On behalf of the fresh produce industry and the broad cross-section of members we represent, we urge the Administration to reconsider these steps that would profoundly interrupt our ability to bring fresh, healthy produce to all Americans. If these actions are implemented, the Administration will cause millions in economic losses while increasing costs to consumers across North America.”
According to the association’s press release, fresh fruit and vegetables are the most perishable and sensitive to timely inspection and delivery of any farm products. United Fresh noted that any disruptions—be they weeks, days or even hours—invariably will result in lost wages and lost revenues.
“Already, inspection delays are being felt from El Paso to San Diego costing farmers, truck drivers, and companies of all sizes. In fact, the San Diego Association of Governments and California Department of Transportation have indicated that even an extra 15 minutes of wait time could generate as much as $1 billion in lost productivity and 134,000 lost in jobs annually,” the association added. “The solution to our immigration problems is not closing the border or slowing commercial traffic, but for Congress and the Administration to work together on real immigration reform. That is why our association continues to call upon our nation’s leaders to get on with sensible reform that ensures a legal workforce for agriculture together with a functional border.”
Will slowdowns resulting from increased border security affect fresh food? Will President Trump seal the U.S.-Mexico border? AndNowUKnow will continue to report.