In response to reports that the largest-ever Central American migrant caravan is in the midst of being formed, President Trump has threatened to close the US border with Mexico if Mexico won’t or can’t keep Central American migrants from traveling through the country to cross the border into the United States. Trump’s anger comes as more and more Central American migrants are crossing the border, sometimes in groups numbering in the hundreds, and surrendering themselves to US authorities. But will closing the border do anything to stop them?
It’s important to remember that laws only affect the law-abiding. Just as banning the possession and use of drugs doesn’t do anything to stop their use, and in fact only increases the incentives to traffic them, and just as banning guns ensures that only criminals have guns, closing the border to immigrants will not do anything to prevent them from crossing. It’s already illegal to cross the border as it is, making it “more illegaler” won’t deter migrants. Given the wide expanses of border with very little coverage by the Border Patrol, these groups of migrants will continue to be able to cross with impunity.
Who will end up suffering are American consumers, as they will face temporarily higher prices on many consumer goods, and especially on food. Mexico is the United States’ third-largest trading partner, or fourth-largest if you count the EU as a single bloc. Mexico is also the source of significant amounts of agricultural goods, over 40 percent of all fruit and vegetable imports, including avocados, tomatoes, and greens. Shutting off that source of food would cause prices at grocery stores to increase significantly, putting a further dent in the budgets of millions of American households.
Would that pressure influence the Mexican government? Not likely, as it wouldn’t be the government that would suffer. Mexican farmers would suffer as they wouldn’t be able to sell their crops for as much in Mexico. They would face having to dump their crops at rock-bottom prices or let them rot. The financial hit that would entail could force them into the arms of drug gangs, who might lend them financial assistance to keep them afloat in exchange for future benefits such as transporting cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines.
In short, no one would benefit from a closure of the southern border. Yes, the migrant crisis needs to be solved, but knee-jerk reactions like closing the border won’t bring about any real solution.