If Trump closes U.S.-Mexico border, here’s who will really feel the pain

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  • Donald Trump’s threatened closure of the U.S.-Mexico border, even for a short time, would have a massive economic impact.
  • Former CIA agent and NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden has a message for Canada.
  • Doctors for Protection from Guns want to make sure their voices are heard in the Canadian debate over revamping firearms legislation.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here.

Big cross-border numbers

Yesterday afternoon, Donald Trump was “100 per cent” ready  to shut all, or part, of the U.S. border with Mexico to gain leverage in his ongoing fight with Congress over immigration and his dream of a wall.

A few hours later, during an evening speech at the National Republican Congressional Committee’s annual spring dinner, he suggested that his threats are working so well that he won’t be able to carry through with the plan.

“I really wanted to close it. But now Mexico is saying, ‘No, no, no,'” he said. “And they’ve apprehended over 1,000 people at the southern border, their southern border. And they’re bringing them back to their countries.”

By this morning, the polarity had reversed again, and the U.S. president was on Twitter demanding immediate measures from the House and Senate. “If no action, Border, or large sections of Border, will close. This is a National Emergency!”

Cars queue up to be inspected by U.S. border patrol officers before crossing from Mexico into the U.S. at the San Ysidro point of entry in Tijuana on March 29. About half a million people legally cross the U.S.-Mexico border each day in Texas alone. (Jorge Duenes/Reuters)

It seems unlikely that Trump will actually follow through and seal the frontier with Mexico, if only because no one else thinks it’s a good idea.

Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republican majority in the Senate, has warned of the “potentially catastrophic economic impact” of such a move.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is warning that a border shutdown would “tank the economy.”

And Trump’s senior aides at the White House are reportedly bombarding the president with statistics, charts, and economic papers  that illustrate that even a one-day closure would hurt the United States far more than Mexico.

Here are some of the numbers at play:

  • 3,145 kilometres — the length of the U.S./Mexico frontier.
  • 500,000 — the number of people who legally cross the border each day in Texas alone.
  • 3rd — Mexico’s rank among U.S. trading partners, behind Canada and China.
  • $ 612 billion — the total value of cross-border trade in 2018.
  • $ 3 billion — the value of American corn exports to Mexico.
  • 58 — the number of electoral college votes  in the corn belt.
  • 5 of 6 — how many of those states Trump carried in his narrow 2016 win.
  • 88-0 — the U.S. Senate vote approving  The Refugee Act of 1980, which permits anyone to claim asylum in the United States once they are “physically present” in the country or at a “land border or port of entry.”
  • 37 — percentage of American-made auto parts that are shipped to Mexico for further work and assembly.
  • $ 29 billionvalue of U.S. auto parts exports to Mexico in 2017.
  • $ 53 billion — value of U.S. auto sector imports that same year.

Snowden’s frustration

The National co-host Adrienne Arsenault interviews whistle-blower Edward Snowden, and he has a message for Canada.

This was an interesting morning. It started with an early and slightly complicated-to-arrange conversation with former CIA agent and NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

He has asylum in Russia and he pops up with some frequency to talk with universities, but he doesn’t do a lot of interviews. This one he wanted to do because he has something to say to Canadians, particularly the Canadian government.

Adrienne Arsenault interviews U.S. intelligence whistle-blower Edward Snowden on Wednesday morning. (Jean-Francois Bisson/CBC)

Effectively, he told me via videolink that he thinks Canada is somehow fearful of irritating the Americans, and that it could have a serious cost.

This is personal for Snowden. As CBC-SRC reported last week, two of the refugees in Hong Kong who sheltered him when he was on the run from American authorities in 2013 have now been accepted by Canada; Quebec in particular. But this means a family is split. Five others remain — a father and half-siblings among them for young Keana Rodel, who is now in Montreal with her mom Vanessa.

They’ve been here a week, and are still sleepy and bewildered and marvelling at the novelties of snow and wide streets and old stone buildings. They would not have sheltered Snowden had they not been asked to help this young man out by their Canadian lawyer, Robert Tibbo.

The domino effect has meant that all seven of the “Snowden angels” became hunted. Even Tibbo has been forced to flee Hong Kong, living in an undisclosed location in Europe.

Vanessa Rodel and her seven-year-old daughter Keana exit Lester B. Pearson Airport in Toronto on March 25 after they were granted asylum in Canada. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

Those who help Snowden, it seems, end up paying. And that’s why he suspects Canada has not immediately opened the doors to the five left behind.

“If this process is independent, if it’s truly independent, they already would have been admitted. I believe, and everyone else believes, the only reason this process for admission has taken so long is simply because the Canadian government is bending over backwards not to create an appearance that might irritate the United States government.”

This is not to say Snowden is unappreciative of what Canada has done so far. He suggests there really is no other place on earth that could or would do this.

“In the current moment the United States is very much failing to live up to its obligations …. admitting these families is something Canada can be proud of. And seeing these families have a happy ending, I think in the fullness of history it’s something that the United States will be very much glad happened.”

But all those who helped him are not safe yet, and really, neither is he.

Snowden does venture out in public, and says he goes largely unrecognized in grocery stores and the metro in Russia, but he never fails to be recognized in places like computer stores. Within moments of walking in, he says, they always spot him.

If someone is going to God forbid, you know, assassinate me on the street, that’s only going to prove my point.– Edward Snowden

“It’s been so many years now — if the United States government is going to take some action against me, if someone is going to God forbid, you know, assassinate me on the street, that’s only going to prove my point. I’ve done as much as I can and I’m going to continue to do more and more as I have the days … but I’m satisfied with the choices I’ve made, and however much time that I have  I can only be grateful for.”

It’s not always easy to get a measure of someone when you are looking at them through a webcam, but he seems determined, at times funny, vigilant always, and clearly well read.

In fact, he brought up the recent spasms in Ottawa, and Jody Wilson Raybould’s recording of a phone conversation between herself and Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick.

“I actually think it is a bit surprising that members of government would consider their phone calls to be private,” he says.

Snowden finds it ironic that while Canadians can’t have that expectation … their leaders think they do.

– Adrienne Arsenault

  • WATCH: The interview with Edward Snowden tonight on The National on CBC Television and streamed online

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Prescription against gun violence

Doctors for Protection from Guns want to make sure their voices are heard in the Canadian debate over revamping firearms legislation, producer PerlitaStroh writes.

Hundreds of doctors across Canada are rallying today for stronger gun laws.

They are urging the government to pass Bill-C71, which among other things would enhance background checks on people who want to buy guns and force retailers keep a record of firearms sales and inventories. The doctors are also pushing the government to amend gun laws and institute a ban on handguns and assault rifles for private citizens.

Although gun violence is usually associated most strongly with the U.S., Canadian doctors say it has become a growing issue here.

Canada is now near the top of countries impacted by gun violence,” says Dr. Peter Dodek, a critical care specialist at Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital. “It’s not a small issue here.”

Doctors and other health-care workers pushing for stronger gun laws marched in Montreal on Wednesday, one of several marches across the country. Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns is calling for a national ban on private ownership of handguns and assault rifles. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

In fact, firearm-related violent crime has risen 42 per cent in Canada since 2013. In Toronto alone, there were 428 shooting incidents in 2018, nearly two and a half times the number that occurred in 2014.

Doctors are hoping that by sharing their stories of treating gun injuries, it will influence the government to make changes to firearms legislation that they say will save lives.

Not everyone agrees with them.

This fall, the Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights echoed the opinion expressed by the U.S. National Rifle Association that doctors here should butt out of the gun safety issue, telling physicians to “stay in your lane.

People in the medical community responded by founding Doctors for Protection from Guns, the group organizing the rally today.

If preventing gun injuries isn’t my lane, I don’t know what is,” says Dr. Julie Maggie, a psychiatrist at St. Mike’s Hospital in Toronto. “We see the health impacts of gun violence, and I believe we are morally and ethically obliged to talk about ways we can prevent these preventable injuries.”

Doctors are rallying in 13 major Canadian cities on this issue today, including in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. Watch coverage of the rallies tonight on The National, and hear from Canadian doctors about their experiences with gun trauma.


A few words on … 

For whom the bellman no longer toils.

Quote of the moment

“The message is basically if you have a strong voice, we’re really, really willing to hear from you … At the same time, the message is, you know, when there is a breach of trust and you’re in a team, obviously, well, it’s difficult to continue to be part of a team.”

– Melanie Joly, the minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie, on the federal Liberals’ message to young women, following last night’s expulsion of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from caucus.

What The National is reading

  • Boeing anti-stall system engaged repeatedly before Ethiopian Air crash: sources (CBC)
  • UN calls for food aid to help starving North Koreans (Guardian)
  • The wonder drug that could reverse the aging process (Telegraph)
  • Australian senator officially censured for mosque-shooting comments (CBC)
  • Spanish fireman faces 20 years in prison for rescuing migrants at sea (El Pais)
  • Toyota to share hybrid vehicle secrets for free (BBC)
  • World’s deepest swimming pool under construction in Poland (Fox News)

Today in history

April 3, 1967: Rich Little, “man of 133 voices”

All of them people who are now dead.

The Canadian-born comedian and impressionist talks to the CBC’s Paul Soles about working in the U.S. 9:08

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