Donald Trump has vowed to cut financial aid to a number of Central American countries while also declaring a national emergency in light of the caravan of migrants making its way to the US border.
“Sadly, it looks like Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan heading to the Southern Border,” he wrote after Mexican riot police failed to contain thousands of people from crossing into the country.
The caravan, mostly Hondurans, crowded into the Mexican border city of Tapachula over the weekend after trekking on foot from the Guatemalan border. Organisers claim there are now more than 7,000 people in it, which will take about a week to reach the US border.
President Trump has repeatedly called for immigration law reform in light of the influx of undocumented immigrants fleeing rampant gang violence and poverty in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. He has made the issue – and his hardline stance – central to the upcoming midterm elections in Congress.
“I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergy [sic]. Must change laws!” Mr Trump said. “Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the US. We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to them.
“Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in,” the president wrote. He has repeatedly called the thousands on the Mexico border “criminals”.
He has been speaking about the issue of immigration at dozens of political rallies across the country ahead of the 6 November midterm elections. He is due to hold another “Make America Great Again” rally in Texas on Monday night.
“Every time you see a Caravan, or people illegally coming, or attempting to come, into our Country illegally, think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws!,” Mr Trump said, as a reminder his supporter base.
The sentiments are echoed in his now infamous campaign rally line: “Democrats create mobs, we create jobs”.
The president also restated his threat to cut off foreign aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, much of which is aimed at violence prevention and poverty reduction.
According to the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2016, the US gave Honduras nearly $128m, Guatemala $297m, and El Salvador $75m in aid across all federal agencies mostly aimed towards counter-narcotics activities, military training, agricultural subsidies, and violence prevention.
By next year, those sums were projected to fall to $69.4m for Guatemala, $65.8m for Honduras, and $45.7m in the case of El Salvador.
Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said that while National Guard troops are currently supporting the Department of Homeland Security on the border, the Pentagon had not been asked to provide additional support. There are currently 2,100 National Guard troops along the border in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, according to the Pentagon.
Mexican officials also issued their own warning to the caravan, stating only those who met the country’s standards for refugee status would be allowed to enter at its southern border but to no avail.
Several people rushed a bridge gate at the border between Guatemala and Mexico or crossed the Suchiate River to enter. As crowds persisted, Mexican police did allow women and children to enter and seek refuge.
A similar caravan of approximately 1,500 people made its approach in April, just weeks before the Trump administration began its family separation policy and putting National Guard troops along the 2,000-mile US-Mexico border.
The separation policy stemmed from a zero-tolerance approach to illegal immigration where all adults face prosecution, even if it means removing them from infants travelling with them.
Several of those who had crossed without documentation were seeking asylum, which requires physical entry into the US before an application for the protected status can be considered per American immigration laws.
The Trump administration continues carrying out its bid to build a large border wall, the funding for which is still up for debate in Congress.
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