President Trump Cuts Aid to Central American Countries “Because They Haven’t Done a Thing for Us”

Trump Immigration

Over the weekend, President Trump’s administration confirmed that he is indeed suspending financial aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, as he has been threatening to do for months. The decision comes because he feels that these countries, a trio called the Northern Triangle, haven’t been holding up their end of a “deal” in stemming the flow of migration. Legislators still have recourse to ensure that these funds — about $500 million in aid — make it to the local, non-governmental programs that rely upon foreign aid to lift communities out of violence, poverty, unemployment, and hunger.

President Trump expressed his belief that the Northern Triangle has actually been facilitating emigration from their homelands. “They set up these caravans in many cases, they put their worst people in the caravan,” he told reporters, echoing his inaugural claim that migrants coming across the U.S.-Mexican border are bad hombres. “They’re not going to put their best in. They get rid of their problems and they march up here.” The president’s fear mongering rhetoric continues to characterize migrants as a faceless, dangerous, and entitled mass, which plays to his base. (In reporting the announcement, Fox & Friends even ran a headline that read “Trump Cuts U.S. Aid to 3 Mexican Countries.”)

While Trump seemingly hopes that cutting off aid will inspire the three Central American governments to effectively crack down on migration, experts contend that the move will be counterproductive. Adriana Beltrán, a director of a human rights research group in D.C., described the move as “shooting yourself in the foot” to the New York Times. The consensus among policy experts is that cutting aid will simply lead more people to flee their countries.

The U.S. initially began providing foreign aid to Central American countries during George W. Bush’s term in office as a way to address drug trafficking and violence; the Obama administration ramped up aid to also treat the “root causes” of these challenges as well as migration. “We have seen significant shifts in the funding strategy, toward more evidence-based and targeted interventions aimed at not only preventing crime and violence, but also improving access to education, job readiness, and vocational training for those most at risk in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras,” Celina de Sola of Glasswing International explained to Bloomberg News back in October, when Trump had been threatening to cut aid in anticipation of the migrant caravans. While the countries are still mired in violence and corruption, the publication highlighted promising changes that have been happening at the ground level among individuals in the community.

At the national level, good policy acknowledges that the benefits of aid will take time to realize. Senator Tom Carper of Delaware told Politico last week that “[it’s] like turning an aircraft carrier… It takes a long time to change the course of an aircraft carrier, but if you stay with it, you can change the course.” Carper was blunt in criticizing the president’s rationale behind wanting to cut foreign aid to the Northern Triangle. “We have a president who thinks the smarter thing to do is to just put $40 billion into a wall, rather than put a fraction of that into helping to turn around these three countries.”