Last week, President Trump threatened (on Twitter) to order a complete shutdown of the US / Mexico border in an attempt to hinder illegal Mexican immigrants from entering the United States. A shutdown of this sort would prevent asylum seekers, along with millions of legal border crossers, from reaching the US. It would also interfere with billions of dollars in trade, of which over 100 billion comes from food imports. Blockage of imports could mean higher prices for and shortages of fruit and berries, tomatoes, limes, beer, tequila, avocados, blue jeans, and cars for American consumers.
NBC News reported that nearly half of all imported U.S. vegetables, along with 40% of imported fruit, are grown in Mexico. A blockage of these goods would cause skyrocketing prices, food shortages, a declining stock market, and an adverse effect on jobs, occurrences that were compared in severity by New York Times reporter Ana Swanson to those of the aftermath of a major natural disaster. All week, major news source headlines read things like, “Trump’s Border Shutdown Could Mean The US Runs Out Of Avocados in 3 Weeks,” and “Trump Closing Mexican Border: Avocado Prices Affected.” While this news certainly is pertinent, I couldn’t help but be a bit troubled by the lack of media coverage on the ramifications of a potential shutdown for those whose lives are directly affected by the ability to cross this border. Even CNN Legal Analyst Jennifer Rodgers poked fun at both America’s misdirected concerns, as well as President Trump’s impetuous use of power when it comes to declaring national emergencies, when she tweeted “Now THIS is a national emergency” in reference to a headline about the potential avocado shortage.
This border shutdown also threatens a temporary closure of the auto industry––as immediate as a week after the shutdown begins––as a result of the US dependency on Mexican car parts; when asked about the likelihood of this occurring, VP of Industry, Labor and Economics at the Center for Automotive Research, Kristin Dziczek, explained that “virtually all car models in America have Mexican parts, and [because of that reliance] the auto industry would stop producing vehicles relatively quickly.”
Unfortunately, at the time of his threatening announcement, President Trump was too focused on punishing the border for its failure to keep immigrants out to consider the negative implications and widespread paralysis that his decision would most likely inflict on the United States Economy. While empty warnings of this sort from Mr. Trump are not uncommon––he has repeatedly threatened to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement––they are still unsettling for economists, business leaders, and citizens alike. Luckily, the President has seemed to have abandoned this plan, at least for right now. On Thursday, April 4, he announced that he would be giving Mexico a “one year warning” to get its illegal immigrants and drug imports under control. On Friday, April 5th, The Washington Post reported that, “The President’s decision offered relief to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had lobbied Trump not to act.”
While it’s assumed that Mr. Trump completely shifted his plans as a result of the widespread opposition that his initial announcement received from people of every background of US politics and economics, he has provided no public reasoning for his sudden decision change, to either the general public, or to his administration. So, for now, we avocado-obsessed millennials have a chance to direct our efforts and attention towards bigger, loftier concerns.