Predictably, the armchair jurists in the media have opined that the president doesn’t have the authority to close the border and will be sued if he tries. TheWashington Post proclaimed, “The only way Trump could potentially shut down the border would be through trade.” (Although, the legal sages at the Post didn’t go into any detail about how that would actually work, since the object of any border shutdown would be keeping out the people currently trying to get in.)
So what’s the real deal? Can the president shut down the border? He can. And the Supreme Court has repeatedly said so:
- 8 U.S.C. § 1182(f), unequivocally grants the president the authority to “suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens” whenever he finds that their entry would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”
- In Sale v. Haitian Centers Council, Inc., decided in 1993, the Supreme Court held that, 1182(f) was intended to give the president the authority to prevent unauthorized mass migrations. Therefore, it delegates “ample power” to impose entry restrictions on foreign nationals, in response to emergent situations that threaten America’s interests. In fact, the Court found that 1182(f) was a more than sufficient basis for the naval blockade which ended the mass migration from Haiti during the Clinton administration.
- More recently, in Trump v. Hawaii, the high Court reaffirmed Sale holding that, “Fairly read, [1182(f)] vests authority in the President to impose additional limitations on entry beyond the grounds for exclusion set forth in the [Immigration and Nationality Act] — including in response to circumstances that might affect the vetting system or other ‘interests of the United States.’” The court also noted that, “By its terms, §1182(f) exudes deference to the President in every clause.”
Based on the Supreme Court’s holdings in Sale and Trump v. Hawaii, 1182(f), it would appear to grant the president more than ample authority to close ports of entry because they are being overrun by people seeking to enter the U.S. by any means, lawful or illegal.