President Donald Trump warned Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez that Washington will cut aid to Tegucigalpa unless a Honduran migrant caravan traveling north through Mexico is stopped and turned around.
“The United States has strongly informed the President of Honduras that if the large Caravan of people heading to the U.S. is not stopped and brought back to Honduras, no more money or aid will be given to Honduras, effective immediately!” Trump wrote on Twitter on the morning of Oct. 16.
On Oct. 15, as many as 3,000 migrants crossed from Honduras into Guatemala en route to Mexico and the United States. Washington has warned that the group shouldn’t attempt to enter the United States illegally.
The caravan is dubbed “March of the Migrant” by its organizers. It has more than doubled in size from Oct. 14, when a group of 1,300 migrants set off from northern Honduras.
“We are seriously concerned about the caravan of migrants traveling north from Honduras, with false promises of entering the United States by those who seek to exploit their compatriots,” the U.S. Embassy in Honduras said in a statement on Oct. 14.
Trump has pressured the leaders of Central American nations to do more to curb illegal immigration. The United States has been inundated with illegal aliens from impoverished nations streaming through its southern border.
In 2016, an estimated 415,000 illegal aliens from Honduras were living in the United States, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. The center estimates the total illegal alien population living in the United States at 10.8 million.
Last week, Vice President Mike Pence told leaders in the region that the United States stands ready to boost economic development and investment to nations that curb illegal migration.
Guatemala said in a statement Oct. 14 that it doesn’t promote or endorse “irregular migration.” A police official at a customs booth on the Guatemala-Mexico border said all Central Americans can pass freely through the region as long as they comply with migration control.
“We’re going to drop in on Donald Trump. He has to take us in,” said Andrea Fernandez, 24, who left Honduras with a newborn baby, a 5-year-old daughter, and 7-year-old son, because she said she couldn’t find work and fears for their safety.
Mexico’s migration institute said in a statement Oct. 15 that march participants would need to follow immigration rules to enter the country, without specifying the criteria.
“The law does not provide for any permission to enter the country without meeting the requirements, and then go on to a third country,” the government agency said.
The caravan, though sizable, represents a tiny fraction of the illegal immigration problem in the United States. In the fiscal year 2018, more than 360,000 illegal aliens were apprehended, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
In late April last year, a similar caravan reached the U.S. border in Tijuana, Mexico.
Reuters contributed to this report.