Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Wednesday that closing the U.S.-Mexico border, as President Trump has lately threatened, would be devastating to the Lone Star State and jeopardize "millions of jobs [that] depend upon trade with Mexico."
"Of course, we should secure the border. We must," Cruz said in a statement. "Our broken immigration system and years of unwillingness to secure our southern border has produced a security and humanitarian crisis. ... But the answer is not to punish those who are legally crossing the border. The answer is not to punish Texas farmers and ranchers and manufacturers and small businesses.
"Closing legal points of entry would harm American commerce and legal transit between Mexico and the United States, and leave coyotes and human traffickers to roam free in the wilderness of our unsecured border."
The senator's statement came a day after Trump appeared to back off on his border threat, saying he was happy with steps Mexico has taken in recent days to prevent a wave of Central American migrants from entering the U.S.
"Let's see if they keep it done," the president said of Mexico. "Now, if they don't, or if we don't make a deal with Congress, the border's going to be closed, 100 percent." He also said that he might only close "large sections of the border" and "not all of it."
Trump added that his posturing was "the only way we're getting a response."
That echoed remarks by the president's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who told Fox News' "The Ingraham Angle" on Monday that Trump's border threat was a way "to pressure everybody" into finding a solution to illegal immigration.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told Fox News' "Tucker Carlson Tonight" on Tuesday that her department was treating the situation at the border as a “Cat 5 hurricane disaster.” Earlier in the day, Homeland Security officials declared, "The system is on fire" and spoke of a "systemwide meltdown" during a conference call with reporters.
Arrests along the southern border have skyrocketed in recent months, with border agents on track to make 100,000 arrests or denials of entry in March, a 12-year high. More than half of those are families with children, requiring extra care.
According to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), more than 76,000 migrants were detained in February, marking the highest number of apprehensions in 12 years. That figure includes more than 7,000 unaccompanied children.
More than 36,000 migrant families have arrived in the El Paso region in the 2019 fiscal year, compared with about 2,000 at the same time last year, according to CBP data.
Fox News' Victor Garcia and The Associated Press contributed to this report.