Donald Trump cuts aid to Central American countries as migrant crisis deepens
A surge of asylum seekers from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have sought to enter the US in recent days
The US government cut aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras on Saturday after President Donald Trump blasted the Central American countries for sending migrants to the United States and threatened to shutter the US-Mexico border.
A surge of asylum seekers from the three countries have sought to enter the United States across the southern border in recent days. On Friday, Mr Trump accused the nations of having "set up" migrant caravans and sent them north.
Mr Trump said there was a "very good likelihood" he would close the border this week if Mexico did not stop immigrants from reaching the United States. Frequent crossers of the border, including workers and students, worried about the disruption to their lives the president's threatened shutdown could cause.
At a rally on the border in El Paso, Texas, Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke denounced Mr Trump's immigration policies as the politics of "fear and division".
A State Department spokesman said in a statement it was carrying out Mr Trump's directive by ending aid programs to the three Central American nations, known as the Northern Triangle.
The department said it would "engage Congress in the process," an apparent acknowledgement that it will need lawmakers' approval to end funding that a Congressional aide estimated would total about $700 million.
New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called Mr Trump's order a "reckless announcement" and urged Democrats and Republicans alike to reject it.
Mr Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Friday that the United States was paying the three countries "tremendous amounts of money," but received nothing in return.
Mario Garcia, a 45-year-old bricklayer in El Salvador, said he was setting off for the United States regardless of the president's threat to close the frontier.
"There is no work here and we want to improve (our lives), to get ahead for our families, for our children. I don't give a damn (what Trump says), I'm determined," Mr Garcia said.
Mr Garcia was one of a group of at least 90 people who left the capital San Salvador over the weekend on buses heading north, in what locals said was the tenth so-called caravan to depart for the United States since October.
Updated: March 31, 2019 11:51 AM