Trump urges Mexico to block illegal immigrants from El Salvador

U.S. President Donald Trump applauds during his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress inside the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 30, 2018. REUTERS/Win McNamee/Pool

WASHINGTON/SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday called on Mexico to do more to prevent violent illegal immigrants from El Salvador from entering the United States, again pushing his long-proposed border wall but stopping short of saying Mexico would fund it.

Trump, in a post on Twitter, said U.S. law enforcement was removing gang members from El Salvador but that they continued to return, adding: “El Salvador just takes our money, and Mexico must help MORE with this problem. We need The Wall!”

El Salvador’s Foreign Ministry rejected Trump’s comments, saying they “again, go against the dignity of the country and omit the efforts and contributions” in regional cooperation with the United States in fighting criminal gangs.

The Salvadoran government underscored recent arrests of gang leaders and hits to their criminal organizations, as well as joint efforts with Honduras and Guatemala, collectively known as the Northern Triangle.

In September, the U.S. Justice Department and authorities from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras announced criminal charges against more than 3,800 members of the MS-13 and 18th Street gangs, 70 of them in six U.S. states.

Friday’s statement, marked the second time in as many months the government of Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren sends Washington a formal letter of protest.

Last month it protested comments attributed in the media to Trump that characterized the homelands of some immigrants as “shithole” countries.

Also in January, Trump administration’s moved to tighten immigration enforcement, saying some 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants allowed to live and work in the United States since 2001 will lose their right to remain in the country in 2019.

Reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington and Nelson Renteria in San Salvador; Writing by Anthony Esposito; editing by John Stonestreet and Lisa Shumaker