Trump Moves to Cut Aid to Central America, Amid Caravans and Flood of Refugees

Gregg Re, Fox News, March 31, 2019

Making good on a longstanding threat, President Trump moved this weekend to cut direct aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, whose citizens are fleeing north and overwhelming U.S. resources—including as part of organized caravans that the White House has warned may eventually lead to the closure of the entire southern border with Mexico.

The dramatic step comes just days after Mexican Interior Secretary Olga Sanchez Cordero warned ominously that “the mother of all caravans” could be coming soon from the three nations.

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And former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson acknowledged Saturday that America has a “crisis” at the southern border, and that the number of apprehensions exceed anything he encountered during his time serving under former President Barack Obama.

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On Saturday, the State Department {snip} notified Congress that it would look to suspend 2017 and 2018 payments to the trio of nations, which have been home to some of the migrant caravans that have marched through Mexico to the U.S. border.

In tweets posted Saturday, Trump blamed Democrats and Mexico for problems at the border and beyond, saying progressives are concerned only with changing domestic demographics to ensure more liberal voters.

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As far as Mexico’s role, he tweeted: “Mexico must use its very strong immigration laws to stop the many thousands of people trying to get into the USA. Our detention areas are maxed out & we will take no more illegals. Next step is to close the Border! This will also help us with stopping the Drug flow from Mexico!”

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When reporters asked Trump on Friday what closing the border could entail, he said “it could mean all trade” with Mexico and added, “We will close it for a long time.”

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A substantial closure could have an especially heavy impact on cross-border communities from San Diego to South Texas, as well as supermarkets that sell Mexican produce, factories that rely on imported parts, and other businesses across the U.S.

The U.S. and Mexico trade about $1.7 billion in goods daily, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which said closing the border would be “an unmitigated economic debacle” that would threaten 5 million American jobs.

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Short of a widespread border shutdown, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the U.S. might close designated ports of entry to re-deploy staff to help process parents and children. Ports of entry are official crossing points that are used by residents and commercial vehicles.

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Border officials are also reportedly planning to more than quadruple the number of asylum seekers sent back over the border to wait out their immigration cases, from 60 to nearly 250.

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Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s foreign relations secretary, tweeted that his country “doesn’t act based on threats” and is “the best neighbor” the U.S. could have.

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