President Donald Trump backed away from his threat to close off the United States-Mexico border after prominent Republicans — including Texas Senator Ted Cruz — warned that a sealed border could have long-term economic consequences for residents of border states, many of whom voted for Donald Trump.
The announcement came mid-day Thursday, Politico reports, during a brief session with reporters at the White House. Trump said that instead of closing the border completely this week, he would give a "one-year warning” to Mexican authorities, allowing them time to beef up their own border security and work with the United States to help control the flow of migrants from Central America.
Trump also discussed the possibility of renegotiating trade contracts with companies that do business in Mexico, or recalculating tariffs on goods made in Mexico or by Mexicans, if certain goals aren't met.
“The only thing frankly better, but less drastic than closing the border, is to tariff the cars coming in,” Trump told media. "We're going to give them a one-year warning and if the drugs don't stop or largely stop, we'll put tariffs on Mexico and products, in particular cars.”
That's a 180-degree pivot from earlier in the week, when Trump told reporters that he would gladly shut trade and movement across the U.S.-Mexico border as early as Friday, if the move would convince Mexican leaders that they need to take an active role in heading off caravans of migrants from Honduras and Guatemala.
Monday, Trump said that the need for border security outweighed the economic concerns associated with ostracizing a major American trading partner.
In the days since he made the announcement, though, public opinion has soured on the possibility of a long-term standoff with Mexico. Millennials panicked over the possibility of an avocado shortage (even though there's currently a glut of avocados on the market, and only a few short weeks before the harvesting season begins in California), and automakers panicked over the possibility of a parts shortage that would leave them unable to complete vehicles in time to meet consumer demand.
Trump also says he believes the threat of closing the border has prompted Mexico to comply with American needs, and that cooperation between American and Mexican border patrol agencies has improved dramatically, even in just the last 48-72 hours.
"So for the last four days, and you actually have covered it to a minor extent, Mexico has been capturing people and bringing them back to their countries at their southern border,” Trump said. “They've been taking people under their very powerful laws — they have the right to do it — and bringing them back to where they came from. That is about three days now, I guess, since frankly since they heard I was going to close the border.”
Thursday morning, even Sen. Ted Cruz weighed in on the issue, concerned that a closed border would have a direct impact on his constituents, many of whom are supporters of the president.
"Of course, we should secure the border. We must. Our broken immigration system and years of unwillingness to secure our southern border has produced a security and humanitarian crisis," Cruz said a statement issued to media Thursday morning, according to USA Today.
"But the answer is not to punish those who are legally crossing the border. The answer is not to punish Texas farmers and ranchers and manufacturers and small businesses," Cruz continued. "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."