Trump plans to slash hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to three Central American countries in retaliation for what he called their lack of help in reducing the flow of migrants to the U.S. border.The move was one of Trump’s harshest yet as he escalates a confrontation with Mexico and Central America over a surge in irregular migration, largely involving children and families seeking asylum.
Trump told reporters Friday:
“I’ve ended payments to Guatemala, to Honduras and El Salvador. No more money is going there anymore. We were giving them $500 million. We were paying them tremendous amounts of money, and we’re not paying them anymore because they haven’t done a thing for us.”
To be clear, funds from the United States do not go to foreign governments. Jim Nealon, a former U.S. ambassador to Honduras, told The Post that they go “to programs designed and implemented by the United States, with the cooperation of governments and civil society."
And some — even from Trump world — say the funding of such programs is working. Last month, Kevin McAleenan, the commission of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told lawmakers:
“We need to continue to support the governments in Central America to improve economic opportunities to address poverty and hunger and to improve governance and security.”
But the president has suffered some backlash from those within his base who contend that he has not delivered on much of his hard-line immigration policy, particularly getting Mexico to pay for a wall along the southern U.S. border. Perhaps part of this effort is to remind those who voted for him that he aims to deliver. His approach has attracted much criticism, however.
Some critics, and even Trump supporters, say that more individuals could be harmed than helped by the president’s decision. Those coming to the United States from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking asylum — including minors — are fleeing domestic violence, poverty and gang violence.
This is not the first time the president has threatened to cut aid to a country. He threatened to end foreign aid to Pakistan in 2018 after accusing Islamabad of harboring terrorists.
The president and his surrogates have implied that terrorists could be sneaking into caravans leaving Central America hoping to get into the United States.
Both moves have sparked pushback, with some who are deeply familiar with the issue. They warn that Trump’s approach to those fleeing Latin America could actually make the crisis worse.
Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) represents one of the states where many immigrants from Central America are settling. Harris, who hopes to replace Trump in the Oval Office, took to social media to dismiss Trump’s proposal. She tweeted:
“Refugees are fleeing violence and oppression in Central America. We can help get to the root of these problems by making smart investments to provide humanitarian relief, and spur economic & civil reforms. Gutting these programs is not the answer.”
Columnist Will Bunch wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“Those who actually do know how the program works point out the obvious, that ending aid will probably make violence and deprivation even worse in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, which means we’ll be seeing even more of their citizens making the dangerous trek north — certainly by next spring. It will increase the very thing that Trump claims he’s trying to stop.”
This approach to immigration might win Trump points with those already on his team who want to see a decrease in immigration — including the legal kind — to the United States. But if there really is a crisis at the border as Trump claims, his approach could lead to it worsening — not improving. And that is not likely to get anyone in Washington the results they want.