VOA News/Aline Barros
U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday once again threatened to close the entire U.S.-Mexico border and cut aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador if Congress fails to give him money to fund the border wall.
In a series of tweets, Trump also asked to change the «ridiculous immigration laws that our country is saddled with.»
The comments come as the U.S. government enters the seventh day of a partial shutdown as a budget standoff remains between Trump, who wants $5 billion in wall funding, and Democratic lawmakers, who back a modest increase in overall border security funding but resolutely oppose a wall.
Closing the U.S.-Mexican border would mean disrupting a $1.68 billion-a-day trade relationship between the two countries, according to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
Immigrant advocates have called the move to seal the border «disgraceful.»
Trump has declined to comment on whether he might accept less than $5 billion for wall funding. When asked Wednesday how long he thinks the shutdown will last, Trump told reporters, «Whatever it takes.»
Democrats have blamed Trump for «plunging the country into chaos» adding that, weeks ago, Trump said he would be «proud» to «own» a shutdown over border wall funding.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and presumed incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said in a joint statement, «The president wanted the shutdown, but seems not to know how to get himself out of it.»
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told Fox News Channel on Friday, «We’re here, and they know where to find us.»
Mulvaney blamed Democrats for the continuing shutdown, saying they have refused to negotiate since the White House made an offer last weekend.
Lorella Praeli, deputy political director at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement that Congress has an obligation to serve as a check on the executive branch.
«This government shutdown is due solely to Trump’s border wall obsession and his refusal to abandon his anti-immigrant agenda, even at the cost of denying hundreds of thousands of federal workers their holiday paychecks and impacting operations at several federal agencies,» Praeli said.
Trump also tweeted Friday, «Word is that a new Caravan is forming in Honduras and they are doing nothing about it. We will be cutting off all aid to these 3 countries – taking advantage of U.S. for years!»
VOA has not been able to independently verify the president’s claim that a new caravan is on its way.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told reporters Friday that Trump’s border-shutting threat was an internal U.S. government matter.
«We take great care of the relationship with the government of the United States,» Lopez Obrador said. «Of course, we will always defend our sovereignty. … We will always protect migrants, defend their human rights.»
Cutting funds to Central American countries would mean a cutback on humanitarian programs, according to State Department data. The aid includes assistance on civilian security, legal development and basic nutrition.
The largest grant was spent to help with agriculture in Guatemala, where the U.S. Agency for International Development says food security is a «grave concern.»