President Donald Trump warned Wednesday that certain foreign countries could see their foreign aid from Washington cut unless they do more to contain illegal immigration into the U.S.
Speaking at a roundtable meeting on the violent MS-13 gang, Trump said his administration would work on a plan to withhold money from countries that are “encouraging” people to illegally cross the southwest border.
“Many of these countries we give tremendous amounts of aid to,” the president said, referring to Central American nations that have produced a growing share of illegal immigrants in recent years. “We’re going to work out something where every time somebody comes in from a certain country, we’re going to deduct a rather large amount of money from what we give them in aid.”
Trump delivered his remarks at a forum New York’s Long Island, which has been the scene of a particularly brutal surge in MS-13 violence. Over the past two years, the gang is believed to have committed dozens of murders there, some by hacking victims to death with machetes.
Of the estimated 10,000 MS-13 gang members nationwide, between 1,000 and 2,000 are thought to be concentrated on Long Island.
The Trump administration has tied the growth of MS-13 to “loopholes” in U.S. immigration law that prevent authorities from detaining and quickly deporting certain illegal immigrants. Those policies forced immigration authorities to resettle thousands of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) from Central American countries, giving MS-13 a pool of fresh candidates from which to recruit, the administration says. (RELATED: REPORT: MS-13 Made Comeback Through Obama’s Lax Gang Enforcement, Surge Of Unaccompanied Minors)
Recent federal gang enforcement operations have shown UAC to be a small but significant fraction of MS-13’s ranks. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 214 MS-13 members in a nationwide operation in November — 64 of those arrested had come to the U.S. as unaccompanied minors.
Trump’s remarks on Wednesday were not the first time he has threatened to pull foreign assistance from countries that are a significant source illegal immigration. He called out Honduras in April as a “caravan” of mostly Honduran asylum seekers was traveling north through Mexico to the southwest border, saying foreign aid would be “in play” if the caravan were not stopped.
Trump also took aim at Mexico, threatening to derail neogtiations over the “cash cow” North American Free Trade Agreement if Mexican authorities didn’t act to stop the caravan.
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