The Slatest

It Sure Seems Like Trump Is Threatening A Travel-Ban-Esque Shutdown on the U.S.-Mexico Border

President Trump speaking at a White House event
US President Donald Trump speaks at a reception commemorating the 35th anniversary of the attack on Beirut Barracks, on October 25, 2018 at the White House in Washington, DC. NICHOLAS KAMM/Getty Images

Perhaps realizing that tweeting at the Honduran migrants walking towards the border won’t effectively deter them, President Trump is reportedly considering a plan to shut down the U.S.-Mexico border with a travel-ban-style executive order — or at least threatening to do so as an electoral gambit or a way to force Democrats to negotiate with him on immigration legislation.

The Washington Post reported Thursday night that Trump “is weighing a plan to shut the U.S. border to Central Americans and deny them the opportunity to seek asylum, asserting similar emergency powers used during the early 2017 ‘travel ban.’”

The proposed order, the Post reports, would try to sidestep existing U.S. asylum law, namely that anyone on U.S. soil, no matter their legal status, can at least claim asylum and enter into a legal process that could eventually end with them legally residing in the U.S.

“The executive order under consideration would suspend that provision and bar Central Americans as a matter of national security,” according to the Post, and would use “the same legal authority he invoked during the travel ban,” that allows the president to bar certain people from claiming asylum because it “would be contrary to the national interest.”

The proposal would obviously provoke lawsuits and protests and the White House may not be able to get it off the ground before what is left of the migrant caravan arrives at the border or the midterm elections. It seems like Trump is running a two-track strategy: developing new legal tools that would allow immigration authorities to choke off asylum claims, and using that as a threat that would let him enact more far-reaching immigration changes.

Trump’s previous attempts at trying to run a hostage-taking strategy, such as the plan Jeff Sessions announced last year to scrap legal authorization for people brought into the country illegally as children, ran into problems: several federal judges allowed the program to continue and Trump’s preferred harsher immigration reform measure was not even able to get majority support in the House of Representatives.

No matter what policy he chooses to pursue, Trump seems perfectly happy to keep talking about the migrant caravan and immigration policy more generally as the midterm election gets closer.