"Mexico does not act on the basis of threats. We are a great neighbour, " Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Twitter after Trump threatened to close the US-Mexico border, again.
US President Donald Trump on Friday threatened to close the nation's Mexican border or large sections of it next week, a potentially drastic step affecting both nations' economies, if Mexico does not halt illegal immigration at once.
"It could mean all trade" with Mexico," Trump said when questioned by reporters in Florida. "We will close it for a long time. I am not kidding around."
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard responded on Twitter:
"Mexico does not act on the basis of threats. We are a great neighbour," Ebrard said. "(Ask) the million and a half Americans who chose our country as their home, the largest community of (Americans) outside the US. For them we are also the best neighbour they could have."
México no actúa con base en amenazas.Somos un gran vecino. Díganlo si no el millón y medio de estadounidenses que eligieron a nuestro país como hogar, la más grande comunidad de ese origen fuera de EU. Para ellos también somos el mejor vecino que pudieron tener.— Marcelo Ebrard C. (@m_ebrard) March 29, 2019
Not Trump's first threat to close the border
Trump has previously threatened to close the border – including at a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Thursday night – but this time was different as he gave a timetable. The White House did not immediately respond to questions about whether his possible action would apply to commercial and air travel, but a substantial closure could have an especially heavy impact on cross-border communities and both nations.
"If Mexico doesn't immediately stop ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States through our Southern Border, I will be CLOSING the Border, or large sections of the Border, next week," Trump said in a tweet. "This would be so easy for Mexico to do, but they just take our money and 'talk.'"
A senior Homeland Security official on Friday suggested Trump was referring to the ongoing surge of mostly Central American families crossing the border from Mexico, though many of those families request asylum under US law.
Those seeking asylum are not deemed illegal simply by their arrival.
The official said the US might close designated ports of entry to re-deploy staff to help process parents and children.
Ports of entry are official crossing points that are used by residents and commercial vehicles. The official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, did not specify which ports the administration was considering closing, but said only that closures were "on the table."
TRT World's Jon Brain has more on Trump's latest rhetoric.
Is there a crisis on the southern border?
Democratic and Republican lawmakers have fought over whether there actually is a "crisis" at the border, particularly amid Trump's push for a border wall, which he claims will solve immigration problems. Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said Thursday the immigration system is cracking under the strain.
The president called on Congress to immediately change what he said were weak US immigration laws, which he blamed on Democrats.
Arrests all along the southern border have skyrocketed in recent months. Border agents are on track to make 100,000 arrests and denials of entry there this month, more than half of them families with children.
To manage the crush, US Customs and Border Protection is reassigning 750 border inspectors from their usual duties at the ports of entry to help Border Patrol keep pace with arrivals in between ports of entry. The head of the agency held a press conference in El Paso, Texas, on Wednesday to say the breaking point had arrived.
Illegal immigration is substantially down
Trump's tirade on Friday echoed his comments on Thursday when he threatened to seal the southern border, claiming in a tweet that America's southern neighbor is allowing illegal immigrants to cross unhindered.
"May close the Southern Border!" the president wrote.
"Mexico is doing NOTHING to help stop the flow of illegal immigrants to our Country. They are all talk and no action," he said.
"Likewise, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have taken our money for years, and do Nothing. The Dems don't care, such BAD laws."
Despite Trump's claims, overall, attempts to get across the border into the United States illegally are down substantially from a decade or more ago.
However, the last year has seen a surge and the general makeup of the arrivals has changed from single men to families and often small children – greatly complicating the task of authorities in providing basic services to detained migrants while their cases are decided.
Mexico says threats don't address fundamental problem
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador rejected Trump's criticism, telling journalists: "We are doing something on this issue."
"We are going to help in every way we can. We don't in any way want a confrontation with the United States," he said.
But Lopez Obrador said a solution would depend on "fundamentally addressing the causes of migration."
Trump's latest threat to shut one of the world's busiest borders, separating two countries with massive economic and cultural links, shows Trump is doubling down on his bid to make immigration a keystone of the gathering 2020 reelection campaign.
The last time Trump threatened to close the Mexican border was in December, when a row over his demand for billions of dollars in wall funding was at its peak.
Democrats in Congress turned down the funding, arguing that Trump was exaggerating problems on the border for political gain. In retaliation, Trump refused to sign wider spending bills, leading to much of the federal government having to shut down for five weeks.
Trump finally declared a national emergency so that he could bypass Congr ess and unlock the money – a move drawing condemnation even from many of Trump's Republicans.