Trump threatens to shut Mexico border

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-47757780

Cars queuing up at at the Mexico and Us border on March 29Image copyright
Reuters

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Queues have been building up at the Mexico-US border

President Donald Trump has said he is likely to close the US border if Mexico does not do more to stop migrants reaching the United States.

The closure would disrupt border crossings, threatening trade worth billions of dollars.

Mr Trump’s threat follows a surge in migrants travelling through Mexico to seek asylum in the US.

Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he would not be drawn into confrontation on the issue.

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said in a tweet that Mexico was a “great neighbour” to the US and would “not act on the basis of threats”.

What did Mr Trump say?

Mr Trump told reporters on Friday: “There’s a very good likelihood that I’ll be closing the border next week, and that will be just fine with me.”

He said it was very easy for Mexico to “stop people from coming up, but they don’t choose to do it”.

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Reuters

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Mr Trump addressed reporters at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Friday

The president later wrote a series of tweets which concluded that because the US “lose so much money with them, especially when you add in drug trafficking etc., that the Border closing would be a good thing!”

The US president has also instructed the state department to cut off all direct assistance to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala – where many of the migrants come from.

The move has to involve Congress, many of whose members have authorised the monies to tackle the root causes of the migration.

How did Mexico respond?

President López Obrador said on Thursday that the issue of migration was “not up to us Mexicans”.

He said it was a problem stemming from Central American countries rather than Mexico.

“The Mexican is no longer seeking work in the United States. The majority [of migrants] are inhabitants of our fellow Central American countries,” he said.

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Reuters

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President López Obrador’s liberal, progressive policies contrast starkly with those of Mr Trump

Following President Trump’s tweets on Friday, Mr López Obrador told a crowd of supporters: “I want to make it clear that we are not going to fight with the United States government. Peace and love.”

He referred to migration as a “human right” and said: “People in Central America don’t have any options, so they set out looking for a way to earn a living.”

Why does Mr Trump want to close the border?

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said border patrol staff had been overwhelmed by a huge increase in asylum seekers fleeing violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials said that border apprehensions in March were expected to total 100,000, the highest in a decade. More than 1,000 unaccompanied children are among those currently in custody.

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AFP

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Migrants are collected in US border patrol vans and taken into custody

Ms Nielsen warned Congress that the US government faced a “system-wide meltdown” as it tried to care for the 6,600 immigrant families currently in custody.

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Reuters

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Migrant families from Central America are held in enclosures after illegally crossing the border from Mexico into the US

It is unclear how closing entry ports might reduce the number of migrants entering the country, as many arrive at unofficial points of entry and can legally request help the moment they step on US soil.

The DHS has moved 750 border staff from entry ports to help process asylum seekers arriving between official crossing points.

What could the impact be?

Ms Nielsen warned Americans that they “may feel effects from this emergency”.

Lack of staffing is already having an impact. Traffic jams at the crossing between Cuidad Juárez and El Paso, Texas, were longer than usual on Friday, with one driver claiming she had been stuck for three hours, Reuters news agency reported.

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AFP

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The border between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez is one of the busiest in the world

A border closure could have a significant financial impact, disrupting tourism and trade between the US and Mexico, which reached a total of $612bn (£469bn) last year, according to the US census bureau.

Kurt Honold, head of business group CCE in Tijuana, Mexico, said there could be billions of dollars of losses.

“It’s obvious he’s not measuring what he says,” Mr Honold added.

What is the background to this?

Mr Trump’s 2016 presidential bid was based on a crackdown on illegal immigration, with him blaming Mexico for “bringing drugs, bringing crime, their rapists”.

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Reuters

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Migration remains at the centre of President Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign

His famous promise to “build a wall” so far remains unfulfilled as Congress refuses to fund it. However, the president has declared a national emergency in order to direct funds away from the military and towards the wall.

Since his election in 2016, Mr Trump has made repeated threats to close the US border with Mexico.

On Thursday, Mr Trump told a crowd of supporters at a rally in Michigan that the US would “close the damn border”.

On Friday, Mr López Obrador told reporters: “All this talk of migrant caravans and such is related to politics and the [US] election campaign- that’s why I’m not going to get into it.”