PALM BEACH: Threatening drastic action against Mexico, President Donald Trump declared he is likely to shut down America’s southern border next week unless Mexican authorities immediately halt all illegal immigration.
The president, who also cut US aid to three Central American nations whose citizens are fleeing north, emphasised “I am not kidding around” about closing the border, even though such a severe move could hit the economies of both countries.
“It could mean all trade” with Mexico, Trump said when questioned on Friday by reporters in Florida. “We will close it for a long time.” Though Trump has previously threatened to close the border and has not followed through, his administration moved to cut direct aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
The State Department said in a statement that it will suspend 2017 and 2018 payments to the trio of nations that have been home to some of the migrant caravans that have marched through Mexico to the US border.
Trump has been promising for more than two years to build a long, impenetrable wall along the border to stop illegal immigration, though Congress has been reluctant to provide the money he needs. In the meantime, he has repeatedly threatened to close the border, but this time, with a new surge of migrants heading north , he gave a definite timetable.
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 US.
The US and Mexico trade about $1.7 billion in goods daily, according to the US Chamber of Commerce, which said closing the border would be “an unmitigated economic debacle” that would threaten 5 million American jobs.
Trump tweeted Friday morning, “If Mexico doesn’t immediately stop ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States through our Southern Border, I will be CLOSING the Border, or large sections of the Border, next week.” He didn’t qualify his threat with “or large sections,” stating: “There is a very good likelihood I’ll be closing the border next week, and that is just fine with me.” He said several times that it would be “so easy” for Mexican authorities to stop immigrants passing through their country and trying to enter the US illegally, “but they just take our money and ‘talk.’” The president, with support from conservative media, has made the large caravans symbols of the United States’ immigration problem.
A group of House Democrats visiting El Salvador denounced the administration’s decision to cut aid to the region.
“As we visit El Salvador evaluating the importance of US assistance to Central America to address the root causes of family and child migration, we are extremely disappointed to learn that President Trump intends to cut off aid to the region,” said the statement from five lawmakers, including Rep. Eliot L. Engel of New York, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2019