U.S. President Donald Trump accused Mexico Sunday of doing "very little" to stop the flow of people across the U.S. border, and threatened to target the North American Free Trade Agreement in retaliation.
His Easter Sunday comments on Twitter came in apparent response to the "migrant viacrucis" ("way of the cross") caravan of of Central American refugees heading towards the Mexican-U.S. border.
"Mexico is doing very little, if not NOTHING, at stopping people from flowing into Mexico through their Southern Border, and then into the U.S. They laugh at our dumb immigration laws. They must stop the big drug and people flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA. NEED WALL!"
A group called Pueblo Sin Frontera, or People Without Borders, organized the mass movement through Mexico as a way of helping Central American migrants avoid criminal gangs and harassment by authorities as they trek to the U.S. border.
About 1,500 migrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, including entire families, set off on March 25 from the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.
"These big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of DACA. They want in on the act!" Trump said, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
The wall, a key item for Trump's supporters, has become a sticking point in talks to keep alive a federal program that protects from deportation young people who were brought to the United States illegally as children.
In his latest budget proposal to Congress, Trump requested US$23 billion for border security, most of it for building the wall.
Trump's attempts to reach a compromise with Democrats on DACA — in return for funding for a Mexico border wall — have so far failed. His administration is also re-negotiating the terms of NAFTA, the 1994 trade accord with Canada and Mexico, which he has threatened to scrap.
In February, Mexican President Peña Nieto cancelled plans to visit Washington after another phone call with Trump during which the U.S. president reportedly lost his temper.
On March 1, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson announced her resignation at what she called "a critical moment" in the U.S.-Mexico relationship. She is due to leave her post on May 5.