Hispanic community: Closing border counter intuitive in quest to quell illegal immigration

March 29, 2019 GMT

Reading on Twitter about President Donald Trump’s latest border threat, Eliazar Posada, community engagement and advocacy manager for El Centro Hispano, had a sense of déjà vu.

“Here we go again, with the Trumpiness of things,” he said in reaction to the president’s warning that if Mexico does not end all illegal immigration into the United States, he will consider closing down the entire border to all traffic, as early as next week.

“Doing this just adds on to the human crisis that is being created by these policies,” Posada said. “You’re just making it harder for folks who are trying to do it the right way to be able to do it!”

Trump and leaders of U.S. Customs and Border Protection point to a recent surge in arrests all along the southern border. The head of the agency held a press conference in El Paso, Texas, on Wednesday to say the breaking point had arrived.

Border Patrol agents are on track to make 100,000 arrests and denials of entry there this month, more than half of them families with children. Many people who cross the border illegally ultimately request asylum under U.S. law, which does not require asylum seekers to enter at an official crossing.

Miriam Antelis, a community specialist for El Centro Hispano, was born in the United States and her parents are naturalized U.S. citizens, but she has plenty of ties to family in Mexico.

“I grew up spending my summers in Mexico,” she said. “I still have family there, so that’s kind of scary, you know scary to think something so harsh would happen that would prevent you know just like easy access from between the two countries.”

A substantial closure could have an especially heavy impact on cross-border communities from San Diego to South Texas, as well as supermarkets, factories, and other businesses across the country that rely on trade to and from Mexico.

The U.S. and Mexico trade about $1.7 billion in goods daily, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which said closing the border would be “an unmitigated economic debacle” that would threaten 5 million U.S. jobs.

“The immigration system definitely needs reform, and I think if we all work together there’s definitely a way to do it and come up with an outcome that’s fair for everybody,” Antelis said.