‘Close The Whole Thing!’: Border Tensions Boil Over As Trump’s Frustrations Grow
The Trump administration’s struggles to curtail illegal immigration have exposed a deep rift among the president and his top advisers, one that could lead to changes in the Cabinet and undermine the government’s response to a record surge of migrant families at the southern border.
Even as President Trump continues to consider immigration to be a political winner next month in helping turn out his conservative base for the midterm elections, tensions in the West Wing have reached a boiling point.
Trump’s own escalating frustration has led him to excoriate aides for not taking more aggressive actions and to offer his own ideas, officials said. He has ruminated this week over the possibility of sending more soldiers to the border, even though thousands of National Guard troops have been deployed there since April with no evidence of a deterrent effect.
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In the summer, the president was so upset by the border numbers that he proposed sealing the entire 1,954-mile U.S.-Mexico border, including shuttering legal ports of entry, blocking trade flows and halting tourism and travel, according to the senior administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations.
Experts said the White House is straining under the same political dilemma that past administrations encountered in trying to manage the massive U.S. immigration system despite Congress’s inability to strike a comprehensive legislative reform package.
But Kelly was audibly cursing as he left the White House grounds and he did not return that day, according to people with knowledge of the situation.
The blowup came after Nielsen, during a White House meeting, had touted an effort by the Mexican government to enlist help from the United Nations’ Refugee Agency to process asylum claims from a caravan of thousands of Honduran migrants traveling north toward the United States. Trump has demanded that the Mexican government disband the group and threatened to cut off foreign aid or upend a new trade deal if it fails to do so.
Nielsen characterized the U.N. involvement as a significant measure that could help stem the flow, according to administration officials. Bolton, a longtime critic of the U.N., responded that the international body was ineffective and expressed disbelief at Nielsen’s view, the officials said, prompting an argument over the DHS chief’s performance.
By Friday afternoon, video clips showed the Honduran migrants, having made their way through Guatemala, attempting to cross into Mexico, some wading through a river.
Back in Washington, one senior DHS official put the scene into perspective.
“We see the equivalent of a caravan cross our border every day,” the official said. “We’re catching 1,500 people a day.”