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President Trump threatened to have the US Military close the Southern Border. Veuer’s Sam Berman has the full story. Buzz60

caravan of Hondurans trying to reach the U.S. to apply for asylum, he vowed to use the U.S. military to “CLOSE THE SOUTHERN BORDER!”

It’s unclear whether Trump is seriously considering a complete closure of the 2,000-mile border with Mexico, or if he’s using the threat simply to get America’s southern neighbors to cooperate, or that he’s just trying to rally his political base less than three weeks before the midterm elections.

But if sealing the border is realistically on the table, then that raises countless questions over the authority of the president to do so, the logistics of such an endeavor, and the widespread consequences it would have on Americans’ ability to trade, travel and even eat.

“A shutdown of the border, even for a temporary period of time, would have dramatic and devastating economic consequences,” said Peter Boogaard, a former Homeland Security official in the Obama administration now working for FWD.us, an immigration advocacy group.

….In addition to stopping all payments to these countries, which seem to have almost no control over their population, I must, in the strongest of terms, ask Mexico to stop this onslaught – and if unable to do so I will call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2018

The first question, whether Trump can close the border, is a simple one to answer: yes.

“You can certainly stop entries coming across the border, whether its truck traffic or cars or pedestrians,” said Gil Kerlikowske, former commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Logistically, that’s possible. The gates are closed, and you say, ‘Right now we’re not taking entry.'”  

Previous examples are rare. President George W. Bush partially closed the southern border following the 9-11 terrorist attacks, requiring full inspections of every incoming pedestrian and vehicle that led to days-long waits. President Ronald Reagan temporarily closed ports of entry along the southern border in 1985 following the kidnapping and murder of a DEA agent in Mexico.

“(Reagan) wanted answers from Mexico and wasn’t getting them, so he shut the border down,” Thomas Homan, Trump’s former head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told Fox News on Thursday. “It wasn’t long before Mexico, unfortunately, found him, he’d been tortured and murdered, but they also arrested the people who committed that crime. It worked.”

The situation gets more complicated if Trump is contemplating using active-duty members of the military to help seal off the massive sections between those ports of entry, a 2,000-mile stretch from Brownsville, Texas, to San Diego, Calif.

The National Guard can definitely be deployed inside the U.S. Several presidents have done so, mobilizing those to assist along the southern border, respond to natural disasters, and help in the war on drugs. Trump has already done the same, issuing an order in April that sent 2,100 National Guard troops to help stop what Trump describes as a “crisis” level of illegal immigration.

But it’s less clear if a president can order active-duty members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to patrol the southern border.

TOPSHOT - Honduran migrants attempt to cross the border Goascoran River to enter illegally to El Salvador, in Goascoran, Honduras on October 18, 2018. - US President Donald Trump threatened Thursday to send the military to close its southern border if Mexico fails to stem the "onslaught" of migrants from Central America, in a series of tweets that blamed Democrats ahead of the midterm elections. (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS / AFP)MARVIN RECINOS/AFP/Getty Images ORG XMIT: 207 ORIG FILE ID: AFP_1A477L

Honduran migrants attempt to cross the border Goascoran River to enter illegally to El Salvador, in Goascoran, Honduras on Oct. 18, 2018.  President Donald Trump threatened to send the military to close its southern border if Mexico fails to stem the “onslaught” of migrants from Central America, in a series of tweets that blamed Democrats ahead of the midterm elections. MARVIN RECINOS, AFP/Getty Images

epa07104768 Rafters help Honduran migrants to cross the Suchiate River that divides Guatemala and Mexico in Escuintla, Guatemala, on 19 October 2018, from where they will continue their journey to USA.  EPA-EFE/ESTEBAN BIBA ORG XMIT: GU502

Rafters help Honduran migrants cross the Suchiate River that divides Guatemala and Mexico in Escuintla, Guatemala, Oct. 19,  2018. From where they will continue their journey to USA.  ESTEBAN BIBA, EPA-EFE

epa07104770 Rafters help Honduran migrants to cross the Suchiate River that divides Guatemala and Mexico in Escuintla, Guatemala, on 19 October 2018, from where they will continue their journey to USA.  EPA-EFE/ESTEBAN BIBA ORG XMIT: GU502

Rafters help Honduran migrants cross the Suchiate River that divides Guatemala and Mexico in Escuintla, Guatemala, Oct. 19,  2018. From where they will continue their journey to USA.  ESTEBAN BIBA, EPA-EFE

epa07104769 Honduran migrants rest in the Tecun Uman's park in Escuintla, Guatemala, 19 October 2018, before continue their way to Mexico. Migrants, who hope to arrive to the United States to seek better living conditions, slept in an open-air theater and in the Catholic church of Tecun Uman, a few kilometers from the Suchiate River, which divides Guatemala and Mexico, where a group of migrants has already started a new stage of the crossing.  EPA-EFE/ESTEBAN BIBA ORG XMIT: GU502

Honduran migrants rest in the Tecun Uman’s park in Escuintla, Guatemala,  Oct. 19, 2018, before continue their way to Mexico.  ESTEBAN BIBA, EPA-EFE

epa07104767 Honduran migrants rest in the Tecun Uman's park in Escuintla, Guatemala, 19 October 2018, before continue their way to Mexico. Migrants, who hope to arrive to the United States to seek better living conditions, slept in an open-air theater and in the Catholic church of Tecun Uman, a few kilometers from the Suchiate River, which divides Guatemala and Mexico, where a group of migrants has already started a new stage of the crossing.  EPA-EFE/ESTEBAN BIBA ORG XMIT: GU502

Honduran migrants rest in the Tecun Uman’s park in Escuintla, Guatemala,  Oct. 19, 2018, before continue their way to Mexico.  ESTEBAN BIBA, EPA-EFE

A woman, part of the group of Honduran migrants on the border of Honduras with El Salvador crosses the Goascoran River despite the increased flow caused by intense rains in the last hours, in El Amatillo, eastern Honduras, Oct. 18, 2018.

A woman, part of the group of Honduran migrants on the border of Honduras with El Salvador crosses the Goascoran River despite the increased flow caused by intense rains in the last hours, in El Amatillo, eastern Honduras, Oct. 18, 2018. Rodrigo Sura, EPA-EFE

A group of Honduran migrants on the border of Honduras with El Salvador continue their journey to the US at El Amatillo, eastern Honduras, Oct. 18, 2018.

A group of Honduran migrants on the border of Honduras with El Salvador continue their journey to the US at El Amatillo, eastern Honduras, Oct. 18, 2018. Rodrigo Sura, EPA-EFE

Honduran migrants continue their march to the department of Escuintla to approach the border with Mexico leaving the Casa del Migrante shelter in Guatemala City, Guatemala, Oct. 18, 2018.

Honduran migrants continue their march to the department of Escuintla to approach the border with Mexico leaving the Casa del Migrante shelter in Guatemala City, Guatemala, Oct. 18, 2018. Esteban Biba, EPA-EFE

Migrants run to board a bus as part of a caravan of immigrants en route to the Mexican border in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Oct. 18, 2018.

Migrants run to board a bus as part of a caravan of immigrants en route to the Mexican border in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Oct. 18, 2018. John Moore, Getty Images

Honduran migrants attempt to cross the border Goascoran River to enter illegally to El Salvador, in Goascoran, Honduras Oct. 18, 2018.

Honduran migrants attempt to cross the border Goascoran River to enter illegally to El Salvador, in Goascoran, Honduras Oct. 18, 2018. MARVIN RECINOS, AFP/Getty Images

A Honduran migrant holds up a replica of the Black Christ of Esquipulas as a caravan of migrants making their way to the U.S. arrives to Esquipulas, Guatemala, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. The Guatemalan police blocked the road of the caravan for several hours before allowing the migrants to continue on their way. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo) ORG XMIT: XMC137

A caravan of more than 1,500 Honduran migrants moves north after crossing the border from Honduras into Guatemala on Oct. 15, 2018 in Esquipulas, Guatemala. The caravan, the second of 2018, began Friday in San Pedro Sula, Honduras with plans to march north through Guatemala and Mexico en route to the United States. Honduras has some of the highest crime and poverty rates in Latin America.  Moises Castillo, AP

ESQUIPULAS, GUATEMALA - OCTOBER 15:  A caravan of more than 1,500 Honduran migrants pauses at a Guatemalan police checkpoint after crossing the border from Honduras on October 15, 2018 in Esquipulas, Guatemala. The caravan, the second of 2018, began Friday in San Pedro Sula, Honduras with plans to march north through Guatemala and Mexico en route to the United States. Honduras has some of the highest crime and poverty rates in Latin America.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775243532 ORIG FILE ID: 1052219302

The caravan, the second of 2018, began Friday in San Pedro Sula, Honduras with plans to march north through Guatemala and Mexico en route to the United States.  John Moore, Getty Images

ESQUIPULAS, GUATEMALA - OCTOBER 15:  A caravan of more than 1,500 Honduran migrants moves north after crossing the border from Honduras into Guatemala on October 15, 2018 in Esquipulas, Guatemala. The caravan, the second of 2018, began Friday in San Pedro Sula, Honduras with plans to march north through Guatemala and Mexico en route to the United States. Honduras has some of the highest crime and poverty rates in Latin America.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775243532 ORIG FILE ID: 1052219492

A caravan of more than 1,500 Honduran migrants moves north after crossing the border from Honduras into Guatemala on Oct. 15, 2018 in Esquipulas, Guatemala. The caravan, the second of 2018, began Friday in San Pedro Sula, Honduras with plans to march north through Guatemala and Mexico en route to the United States. Honduras has some of the highest crime and poverty rates in Latin America.  John Moore, Getty Images

A faint Honduran migrant woman is helped as Guatemalan police temporarily block the road after her caravan crossed the Honduras-Guatemala border without incident, in Esquipulas, Guatemala, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. Police stopped the migrants for several hours but the travelers refused to return to the border and were eventually allowed to pass. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo) ORG XMIT: XMC136

A faint Honduran migrant woman is helped as Guatemalan police temporarily block the road after her caravan crossed the Honduras-Guatemala border without incident, in Esquipulas, Guatemala.  Moises Castillo, AP

ESQUIPULAS, GUATEMALA - OCTOBER 15:  Honduran immigrants overnight at an migrant shelter on October 15, 2018 in Esquipulas, Guatemala. A caravan of at least 1,500 Central Americans, the second of its kind in 2018, began in San Pedro Sula, Honduras with plans to march north through Guatemala and Mexico in route to the United States. Honduras has some of the highest crime and poverty rates in Latin America.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775243532 ORIG FILE ID: 1052270796

Honduran immigrants overnight at an migrant shelter in Esquipulas, Guatemala.  John Moore, Getty Images

ESQUIPULAS, GUATEMALA - OCTOBER 15:  A caravan of more than 1,500 Honduran migrants moves north after crossing the border from Honduras into Guatemala on October 15, 2018 in Esquipulas, Guatemala. The caravan, the second of 2018, began Friday in San Pedro Sula, Honduras with plans to march north through Guatemala and Mexico en route to the United States. Honduras has some of the highest crime and poverty rates in Latin America.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775243532 ORIG FILE ID: 1052219378

The caravan of more than 1,500 Honduran migrants moves north after crossing the border from Honduras into Guatemala.  John Moore, Getty Images

ESQUIPULAS, GUATEMALA - OCTOBER 15:  A caravan of more than 1,500 Honduran migrants pauses at a Guatemalan police checkpoint after crossing the border from Honduras on October 15, 2018 in Esquipulas, Guatemala. The caravan, the second of 2018, began Friday in San Pedro Sula, Honduras with plans to march north through Guatemala and Mexico en route to the United States. Honduras has some of the highest crime and poverty rates in Latin America.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775243532 ORIG FILE ID: 1052219362

The Honduran migrants pause at a Guatemalan police checkpoint after crossing the border from Honduras.  John Moore, Getty Images

Hondurans march in a caravan of migrants moving toward the country's border with Guatemala in a desperate attempt to flee poverty and seek new lives in the United States, in Ocotepeque, Honduras, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. The group has grown to an estimated 1,600 people from an initial 160 who first gathered early Friday in a northern Honduras city. They plan to try to enter Guatemala on Monday. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo) ORG XMIT: XMC106

Hondurans march in a caravan of migrants moving toward the country’s border with Guatemala in a desperate attempt to flee poverty and seek new lives in the United States, in Ocotepeque, Honduras.  Moises Castillo, AP

epa07095951 Guatemalan policemen prevent Honduran migrants from crossing the Agua Caliente border, in Chiquimula, Guatemala, 15 October 2018. The migrant caravan aims to reach the United States fleeing the poverty and insecurity in their country  EPA-EFE/Esteban Biba ORG XMIT: GUA08

Guatemalan policemen prevent Honduran migrants from crossing the Agua Caliente border, in Chiquimula, Guatemala.  Esteban Biba, EPA-EFE

A Honduran migrant holds up a replica of the Black Christ of Esquipulas as Guatemalan police temporarily block the road after the caravan crossed the Honduras-Guatemala border without incident, in Esquipulas, Guatemala, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. The caravan began as about 160 people who first gathered early Friday to depart from San Pedro Sula, figuring that traveling as a group would make them less vulnerable to robbery, assault and other dangers common on the migratory path through Central America and Mexico. The group has since grown to at least 1,600 people. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo) ORG XMIT: XMC127

A Honduran migrant holds up a replica of the Black Christ of Esquipulas as Guatemalan police temporarily block the road after the caravan crossed the Honduras-Guatemala border without incident, in Esquipulas, Guatemala.  Moises Castillo, AP

ESQUIPULAS, GUATEMALA - OCTOBER 15:  A caravan of more than 1,500 Honduran migrants moves north after crossing the border from Honduras into Guatemala on October 15, 2018 in Esquipulas, Guatemala. The caravan, the second of 2018, began Friday in San Pedro Sula, Honduras with plans to march north through Guatemala and Mexico en route to the United States. Honduras has some of the highest crime and poverty rates in Latin America.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775243532 ORIG FILE ID: 1052219350

Honduras has some of the highest crime and poverty rates in Latin America.  John Moore, Getty Images

Honduran migrants holds up their national ID cards as Guatemalan police block them and their caravan after the group crossed the Honduras-Guatemala border without incident, in Esquipulas, Guatemala, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. Police stopped the migrants for several hours but the travelers refused to return to the border and were eventually allowed to pass.  (AP Photo/Moises Castillo) ORG XMIT: XMC131

Honduran migrants holds up their national ID cards as Guatemalan police block them and their caravan after the group crossed the Honduras-Guatemala border without incident, in Esquipulas, Guatemala.  Moises Castillo, AP

ESQUIPULAS, GUATEMALA - OCTOBER 15:  A caravan of more than 1,500 Honduran migrants moves north after crossing the border from Honduras into Guatemala on October 15, 2018 in Esquipulas, Guatemala. The caravan, the second of 2018, began Friday in San Pedro Sula, Honduras with plans to march north through Guatemala and Mexico en route to the United States. Honduras has some of the highest crime and poverty rates in Latin America.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775243532 ORIG FILE ID: 1052219454

The caravan, the second of 2018, began Friday in San Pedro Sula, Honduras with plans to march north through Guatemala and Mexico en route to the United States.  John Moore, Getty Images

ESQUIPULAS, GUATEMALA - OCTOBER 15:  A caravan of more than 1,500 Honduran migrants moves north after crossing the border from Honduras into Guatemala on October 15, 2018 in Esquipulas, Guatemala. The caravan, the second of 2018, began Friday in San Pedro Sula, Honduras with plans to march north through Guatemala and Mexico en route to the United States. Honduras has some of the highest crime and poverty rates in Latin America.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775243532 ORIG FILE ID: 1052219320

The migrants moves north after crossing the border from Honduras into Guatemala.  John Moore, Getty Images

Honduran migrants walk past a roadblock of Guatemalan police as they make their way to the U.S., in Esquipulas, Guatemala, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. Police stopped the migrants for several hours but the travelers refused to return to the border and were eventually allowed to pass. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo) ORG XMIT: XMC134

Honduran migrants walk past a roadblock of Guatemalan police as they make their way to the U.S., in Esquipulas, Guatemala. Police stopped the migrants for several hours but the travelers refused to return to the border and were eventually allowed to pass. Moises Castillo, AP

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The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 bars active duty military troops from performing domestic law enforcement functions. Legal and military experts have long cited that law as a barrier to domestic deployments of the military.

“The Department of Defense really doesn’t like to use the military in this law enforcement role. It blurs the line,” said Christine Wormuth, a former undersecretary at the Defense Department and now director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the Rand Corporation. “The United States public doesn’t want the military to be policemen.”

But the federal government has created some carve-outs that have allowed for domestic deployments. In 1991, Congress passed a law that allows the Pentagon to assist federal and state law enforcement officials during domestic anti-drug operations. That led to a 1997 incident in Texas where a Marine on a drug-surveillance mission shot and killed an 18-year-old who was herding goats on his family’s ranch. U.S. law also allows the military to respond to armed insurrections and the recovery of weapons of mass destruction.

The Trump administration has already been willing to push legal limits to crack down on immigration, as its done to implement its travel ban, punish so-called “sanctuary cities” and end programs that have protected more than 1 million immigrants from deportation. Put that all together and some military experts feel that Trump could find a way to deploy active-duty military to the border in the name of national security. 

“He has to work with Congress, and there’s some bureaucratic, legal procedures he has to work through, but he can,” said Frank Mora, a former deputy assistant secretary for the Western Hemisphere at the Department of Defense in the Obama administration.

Mora made clear, however, that going through that process would be “ridiculous on so many levels.” He said the idea of deploying active-duty military along the border would not only take away from more important missions, but would be a disproportional response to stop “women, children and young men” from attempting to carry out the legal practice of applying for asylum.

“There are two audiences for this: his (political) base, just three weeks before the election, and to intimidate our friends and allies into submitting and doing what the president wants,” said Mora, now the director of the director of the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jamie Davis said the National Guard continues its deployment along the southern border, but that the Department of Defense “has not been tasked to provide additional support” as of Thursday afternoon.

Further complicating any closing of the border is the damage it would cause economically, not only in the four border states but throughout the country.

The U.S. State Department estimates that $1.7 billion in goods and services, and hundreds of thousands of people, legally cross the border each day. The U.S. gets nearly half (44 percent) of its fresh fruits and vegetables from Mexico, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

“There’s a reason ports of entry exist,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for lower levels of legal and illegal immigration.

That’s why Krikorian, who wants the migrant caravan stopped, says Trump cannot seriously be considering a full closure of the border. Krikorian believes Trump is either bluffing to get Mexico to stop the caravan for him, or simply using the threat to rile up the Republican base before the midterm elections.

“This really does exemplify how Trump articulates what a lot of ordinary people feel when they see,” a caravan of migrants headed toward the U.S., he said. “That’s part of his strength — he gives voices to the reaction that normal people have to news events.”

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