President Donald Trump has drawn back his threats to shut down the border with Mexico ahead of a visit to California on Friday but they are still being felt acutely in Boyle Heights, where residents have deep ties to Mexico and Central America.
Though physically closing the border would be practically impossible, Trump has said he would close down legal ports of entry — affecting everyone from students to hundreds of thousands of day laborers who cross into the United States every day.
“This doesn’t just affect those who are undocumented, but a lot of people who are citizens of Mexico or Central America migrate daily across the border for work,” said Marisol Márquez, an activist with community organization Centro CSO.
Trump visited Calexico on Friday to promote an upgraded section of fencing along the border there and call for billions of dollars in funding to build a wall — a request that’s repeatedly been thwarted by Congress, which has so far approved just over $1 billion.
Since declaring a national emergency in February, he has repeatedly threatened to close the border if drug smuggling and illegal immigration from Mexico doesn’t stop. But on Thursday, he seemed to back down from that ultimatum, saying he would give Mexico a “one-year warning.”
On Friday, however, Trump clarified that he would first place tariffs on the cars imported
from Mexico, but if this failed to work he would carry out his original threat.
“Tariffs will stop the cars coming in. If that doesn’t work we’ll close the border. It won’t take a year, it’ll take a day,” Trump said at a roundtable discussion at the border on Friday. “We hope we won’t have to do that, but I’ll do it.”
Márquez, whose organization sent a delegation to the border this week, said that a border shutdown would have a “devastating” impact on local residents. In particular, street vendors who rely on crops from Mexico might not be able to make a living, or people with families across the border could be cut off indefinitely.
She pointed out that the potential border shutdown was part of a larger pattern of divisive rhetoric aimed at keeping an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the shadows.
“We need to be in solidarity with those who are undocumented and stand against Trump’s bigotry and racism,” Márquez said. “Anything he says does affect our community greatly.”
Photo: The U.S.-Mexican Border in Calexico, Calif. Courtesy of Omar Bárcena/Flickr.