Multiple news outlets reported on Thursday night that the White House is weighing efforts to partially close the nation’s southern border to prospective asylum-seekers. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the proposal is not yet final, but would potentially use “travel-ban-like authority” to halt migrants from reaching U.S. ports of entry, where immigration officials would be legally required to consider their asylum claims.
It’s hard to discern the true scope and scale of what’s under consideration without knowing the precise language. Comparisons to the travel ban aren’t encouraging, however. Trump’s initial executive order in January 2017 was poorly drafted and poorly implemented, sparking chaos in U.S. airports until federal judges intervened to halt it. The order ultimately went through multiple revisions before the Supreme Court narrowly upheld its final iteration in June.
With Trump, however, the style is just as prized as the substance. The president has seized on an approaching migrant caravan from Central America over the last week in an apparent bid to stoke fear among his nativist supporters. Republicans are expected to face significant losses in the midterm elections on November 6, and Trump appears to think the looming threat of asylum-seekers could bolster flagging enthusiasm in the conservative ranks.
Any such order would almost certainly prompt a wave of legal challenges in federal courts. Without knowing its exact provisions, it’s hard to weigh how it would fare under judicial scrutiny. The Supreme Court’s decision in Trump v. Hawaii earlier this year indicated that Chief Justice John Roberts and the other conservative justices are willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt on controversial immigration policies, no matter how contrived, slapdash, or bigoted their origins may be.