WashU Expert: Trump’s border-closing threat enters ‘murky’ legal waters

Amid a partial government shutdown over funding for his promised wall along the southern U.S. border, President Donald Trump threatened Dec. 28 to seal the Mexico border if Congress doesn’t authorize funds — a pledge that may well entail deploying the military to prevent unauthorized entries or closing official ports of entry.

The legality, let alone the wisdom, of such measures was called into question by an immigration-law expert at Washington University in St. Louis.

“The president certainly has the general legal authority to close particular ports of entry,” said Stephen Legomsky, the John S. Lehmann University Professor Emeritus in the School of Law, author of the widely used law school text “Immigration and Refugee Law and Policy,” and former Chief Counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security. “Those ports are designated only by regulation, not by statute. Whether he would have to go through the lengthy notice-and-comment process (to close them) is unclear. He can issue interim regulations when it’s urgent, and the courts would have to decide whether they could reject his claims of urgency.”

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