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Trump threatens to pull aid from Central American countries protected by TPS

Seeking asylum is not a crime.

Honduran migrants heading to the United States, take a rest at a gas station in Zacapa, Guatemala, on October 16, 2018.  A migrant caravan set out on October 13 from the impoverished, violence-plagued country and was headed north on the long journey through Guatemala and Mexico to the US border. President Donald Trump warned Honduras he will cut millions of dollars in aid if the group of about 2,000 migrants is allowed to reach the United States. (Photo credit: ORLANDO  ESTRADA/AFP/Getty Images)
Honduran migrants heading to the United States, take a rest at a gas station in Zacapa, Guatemala, on October 16, 2018. A migrant caravan set out on October 13 from the impoverished, violence-plagued country and was headed north on the long journey through Guatemala and Mexico to the US border. President Donald Trump warned Honduras he will cut millions of dollars in aid if the group of about 2,000 migrants is allowed to reach the United States. (Photo credit: ORLANDO ESTRADA/AFP/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump on Tuesday night threatened to pull foreign aid for several Central American countries if their citizens try to enter the United States illegally.

“We have today informed the countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador that if they allow their citizens, or others, to journey through their borders and up to the United States, with the intention of entering our country illegally, all payments made to them will STOP (END)!” Trump tweeted.

“Anybody entering the United States illegally will be arrested and detained, prior to being sent back to their country!” he added in a follow-up tweet.

The tweets were apparently a reference to a migrant caravan making its to the United States from Honduras.

According to CNN, the caravan, currently in Guatemala, includes more than 1,600 individuals and families with children who are fleeing their country of origin due to crime, poverty, and a lack of job opportunity.

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Living conditions in Honduras and El Salvador are so perilous that the United States previously awarded Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to immigrants from those countries, effectively giving them legal sanctuary. The Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, where the caravan was organized, is one of the most dangerous cities in the world, and El Salvador, ravaged by both an devastating earthquake and a civil war, was named the murder capital of the world in 2016.

In attempt to purge the number of immigrants living in the United States, Trump administration ended protections for Hondurans earlier this year. In 2020, 57,000 Hondurans who have been living legally in the country for 20 years will lose their right to work and be vulnerable to deportation.

The administration attempted to end TPS protections for El Salvador last year, but a recent decision from a federal judge in California ruled the government must maintain TPS and recipients’ employment authorizations while a lawsuit challenging the government’s decision to eliminate protections continues.

“[…] Absent injunctive relief, TPS beneficiaries and their children indisputably will suffer irreparable harm and great hardship,” the judge wrote. “TPS beneficiaries who have lived, worked, and raised families in the United States (many of them for over a decade), will be subject to removal.”

The Justice Department appealed the decision, reiterating the administration’s desire to limit the number of immigrants from predominantly non-white countries.

Not only are living conditions in Central American countries unbearable for many families, but the road to the southern border is equally dangerous. In recent years, organized caravans have become a popular way for immigrants to migrate to the United States, providing strength in numbers.

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Contrary to Trump’s tweets, these immigrants are not entering the country illegally — most, if not all, plan to cross the border legally at a port of entry and claim asylum.

Seeking asylum is not a crime, yet the Trump administration has historically treated those fleeing dangerous situations in their home countries as criminals. A recent report from Amnesty International found that the federal government may have violated international human rights law when immigration officials arrested or turned away hundreds asylum seekers at border ports of entry over the past year.

The administration had previously claimed asylum seekers who came through those ports of entry would not be arrested.