After Previous Disasters, Trump Is Once Again Relying on Threats

Over the span of just a few days, we’ve seen a significant shift in the president’s demands associated with his threat to close the country’s southern border. Last Friday he tweeted that, “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.”

At that point, if I was a betting person, I would have put the odds against Trump actually closing the border. After all, he blusters a lot and most of the time doesn’t follow through. I expected that the most likely outcome would be one we’ve seen several times: eventually he would declare Mexico to be compliant and take a victory lap.

By Wednesday, the demands had changed.

Here is what Trump means by “loopholes.”

The president is threatening to shut down the Mexican border if Congress doesn’t:

  1. Get rid of chain migration,
  2. Get rid of “catch and release,”
  3. Get rid of the diversity visa lottery,
  4. Do something about asylum, and
  5. Get rid of judges.

Numbers one and three are about changing this country’s laws about legal immigration and have nothing to do with the border. On the other three items, it is important to keep in mind that we are not talking about illegal immigration, but asylum seekers. Trump wants to conflate the two and suggest that the latter are somehow breaking the law. When he talks about getting rid of “catch and release,” he means that refugees seeking asylum shouldn’t be “released” while they await the court process to determine their status. Beyond that, he suggests that we need to get rid of judges and eliminate the process for adjudicating asylum claims altogether—which would be a breach of international law.

Clearly, Congressional Democrats are not going to implement such an agenda. So the odds just went up significantly that Trump will close the border. People in the administration obviously think so because they are working on a plan to diminish the impact, which weakens the president’s hand by mitigating the leverage at his disposal.

If Trump was a rational person, he would have learned from previous experience that tactics like this don’t work. It wasn’t that long ago that he was threatening to shut down the government if Congress didn’t give him money for his wall. From a political standpoint, that was a disaster. The same thing will happen this time. But the guy who claims to be such a great deal-maker hasn’t figured that out yet because threats are all he knows. Meanwhile, the rest of us will have to brace ourselves for another round of this man’s ignorance and incompetence.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.