The United States will “begin cutting off” foreign aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador because of a convoy of migrants approaching the US border to Mexico said President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday
“They’re not coming in. We’re going to do whatever we have to, they’re not coming in,” declared Trump on Tuesday while the group is still far away from the US-Mexican border.
Mr Trump critiqued the three Latin American countries on Monday for allowing people to leave the region and come “illegally” to the States. Most of the people fleeing are families – among them many women and children – who run from persecution, poverty, and violence in their home countries. The caravan consists of 1,000 Hondurans who began their journey in the crime-ridden city of San Pedro Sula on 13 October trying to escape unemployment and the threat of violence.
He also threatened the three countries with cutting aid which would make it worse according to human rights organisations. “Cutting aid to refugee-producing countries will only make worse the conditions that displace people in the first place,” said Human Rights Watch on Sunday. The organisation said that: “People generally don’t want to leave their homes if they can live normal, safe lives there” and therefore, core causes must be addressed.
In 2017, Guatemala received over $248m (£191m) in US aid while Honduras received $175m and El Salvador $115m according to the US Agency for International Development. Though President Trump did not specify what financial assistance would be cut, and it remains unclear if he would proceed with such action through a presidential order.
On Sunday, the migrant caravan reached the town of Tapachula, approximately 37km away from Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala. Mexico’s authorities had tried to stop the caravan at a border bridge, but many still managed to reach Mexico illegally by boat.
The caravan is expected to reach the border to the US within two weeks’ time according to several US news outlets. One of the closest border passages to the US is in Brownsville, Texas, which is still over 1,600 km away from Tapachula. Furthermore, so far, the caravan has been stuck in Mexico where asylum claims can take up to 45 working days – delaying the last part of the journey for several weeks.
One of the fleeing migrants told AFP news agency “We have sunburn. We have blisters. But we got here. Our strength is greater than Trump’s threats”.
Illegal immigration was one of President Trump’s key campaign promises when he ran for the presidency in 2016. With the mid-term elections coming up on 6 November where the USA could see a surge of Democrats in the House of Representatives, President Trump has used this news – without giving evidence – to blame Democrats for the border crisis, saying: “Remember the mid-terms”.