Trump made the threat as thousands of asylum seekers from Honduras make their way through Mexico en route to the US.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on October 19, 2018

“I must, in the strongest of terms, ask Mexico to stop this onslaught – and if unable to do so I will call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!..” Trump tweeted on 18 October local time.

He also threated to stop any aid payments to the countries involved.

Trump tweets that the mass exodus from Honduras is “All Democrats fault”

In a follow-up tweet he wrote: “The assault on our country at our Southern Border, including the Criminal elements and DRUGS pouring in, is far more important to me, as President, than Trade or the USMCA. Hopefully Mexico will stop this onslaught at their Northern Border. All Democrats fault for weak laws!”

The caravan left the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula on 11 October. The group, which has been estimated at between 2,000 and 4,000 people, has already made it through two police roadblocks in Guatemala en route to the US.

Such mass flights from Honduras and other impoverished Central American nations have been commonplace recently as groups band together for safety as they flee violence, gang warfare and widespread poverty.

Honduras has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.

Despite Trump’s claims that the group has criminal affiliations, there has been no evidence to support this. Group members have told journalists they are travelling in numbers to protect themselves from criminals who target migrants for robbery and rape.

Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky rejected the President’s characterisation of the migrants. “Instead of admitting some responsibility in creating the violent situation in Honduras, President Trump is yet again scapegoating immigrants and refugees,” she said in a statement.

“He is painting a picture of this migrant caravan as a threat to our national security instead of the desperate group of refugees that they are.”

Mexico responds to the incoming caravan of migrants

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has scheduled talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the issue for Friday 19 October.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who will take over the presidency in December, said that “an agreement can be reached” with the US.

“We’re going to take care of our relationship with the United States government,” he said. “It’s very important to have a relationship of friendship.”

Mexico has also said it will appeal to the United Nations refugee agency for assistance with the influx of migrants.

Previously, Mexico warned the migrants that they will need to meet the usual legal standards for entry once they get to its southern border. Any undocumented migrants will be refused entry, a statement from Mexico’s National Migration Institute said.

The Trump administration has already outlined plans to slash US aid to Latin America and the Carribean. For the fiscal years 2018 and 2019, only US$1 billion is earmarked for these areas, down from almost US$1.9 billion in 2011.

In April 2018 the Trump administration sent 4,000 National Guard troops to the border with Mexico to work alongside US Customers and Border Protection officials. By law, the military can’t detain or arrest illegal immigrants, much less take up arms against those entering the country. It can, however, act as a deterrent or provide surveillance.

Closing down the US-Mexico border would also have major economic ramifications, particularly for the manufacturing sector. In July 2018, US$41.5 billion worth of goods passed through the border.

Trump’s tweets suggest he is determined to go through with the border closure even if it affects trade via the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) but party colleagues may not be so enthusiastic, especially as the Republican stronghold of Texas is the state that would be most impacted by a closed border.