WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump stepped back on Tuesday from the threat of closing the southern US border to fight illegal immigration, amid pressures from companies worried that such an arrest would cause chaos in the chains of supplying.
Trump had threatened Friday to close the border this week unless Mexico acted. He repeated that threat on Tuesday but said he had not yet made a decision: "We will see what happens in the coming days".
Closing the border could disrupt millions of legal crossings and billions of dollars in trade. Automotive companies have warned the White House privately in recent days that it would take US automakers to a minimum in just a few days because they rely on quick deliveries of parts manufactured in Mexico.
Trump praised Mexico's efforts to hinder illegal immigration from Central America to its southern border on Tuesday.
"Mexico, as you know, started catching a lot of people on the southern borders from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and they are really capturing thousands of people," Trump told reporters.
On Monday, the Mexican government said it would help regulate the flow of Central American migrants crossing its country. It is not clear if there has been an increase in apprehensions.
"They say they will stop them. Let's see. They have the power to stop them, they have the laws to stop them," Trump said.
Trump has made the fight against illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America a key part of his agenda, but closing one of the most used borders in the world could be too long a step, even for many of his Republican colleagues .
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell has joined the Democrats to warn Trump of such a move.
"Closing the border would have a potentially catastrophic economic impact on our country and I hope we wouldn't do that sort of thing," McConnell told reporters at Congress Tuesday.
A group representing General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV stated in a statement that "any action that would stop trade at the border would be detrimental to the American economy, and in particular for the industry automobile ".
Dozens of US vehicles, engines, transmissions and other auto parts systems could close due to lack of components in the days and weeks following the closure of a border. Furthermore, it would prevent thousands of vehicles built in Mexico from landing in US dealership showrooms.
The automakers exported almost 2.6 million vehicles manufactured in Mexico to the United States in 2018, representing 15% of all vehicles sold in the United States. Some, like the Chevrolet Blazer SUV, are made only in Mexico.
US National Security Department (DHS) officials said today that a recent relocation of some 750 border agents to cope with a wave of migrants – mostly Central American families who turn into border agents – has already caused a slowdown in legal crossings and trade in ports of entry.
"Waiting times in Brownsville (Texas) were around 180 minutes, which was twice the peak last year," a senior DHS official said in a call to journalists. "We concluded yesterday in Otay Mesa (California) with a load of 150 trucks that had not been processed," the official said.
DHS officials said border facilities were overwhelmed by families seeking asylum.
The customs and customs protection of the United States has estimated that around 100,000 migrants have been arrested or met at the border in March, the highest level in a decade. "The system is on fire," a DHS official said.
Due to limitations on how long children are legally allowed to be held in detention, many of the families are released pending their immigration hearings in the United States, a process that can take years due to backward arrears.
To try to address the problem, the administration in January began sending some migrants to wait for their court dates in the United States in neighboring cities with Mexico. On Monday, DHS said it would dramatically raise that program despite the court's challenges and the concerns of immigration defenders.
The main priority for DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is to seek congressional action to change immigration laws, a DHS official said. He sent a letter to Congress last week, repeating many of the Trump administration's requests, including a request to quickly expel Central American minors crossing the border alone.
According to the current law, minors who do not come from neighboring countries of Canada and Mexico are entrusted to sponsors in the United States, which Nielsen has called a dangerous "attraction factor" for migrants. Defenders of migrants and some Democrats in Congress oppose the proposed legislative changes, saying they would send vulnerable children to dangerous situations in their home countries.
Trump said he had spoken to "some" Democrats on Tuesday about the administration's proposals and added, "they are changing their mind".
Reported by Roberta Rampton, Steve Holland and David Shepardson in Washington and Mica Rosenberg in New York; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Tim Ahmann, Alistair Bell and Rosalba O & # 39; Brien
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