Cutting U.S. Aid to Central America Is No Way to Address Immigration

Cutting U.S. Aid to Central America Is No Way to Address Immigration
Honduran migrants en route to Mexico gather in a park in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, Jan. 17, 2019 (AP photo by Moises Castillo).

President Donald Trump announced late last month that he is cutting off $450 million in U.S. aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, delivering on a previous threat amid news that another migrant caravan was forming in Central America. The move has drawn significant criticism, even from within Trump’s administration. The aid is largely used for social, economic and governance development programs that many consider to be an effective, long-term solution to underlying issues—such as violence, poverty and corruption—that are driving people out of their home countries and toward the United States.

Perhaps not unexpectedly, Trump’s attempt to reconcile these facts is somewhat hard to unravel. He told reporters last Friday that Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador “haven’t done a thing for us” except to “set up” caravans containing their “worst people.” The reality, of course, is that these caravans form through word-of-mouth, often in WhatsApp group chats, and under the leadership of immigration rights groups in the region, such as Pueblo Sin Fronteras.

Trump also sounds confused about where aid goes and how it’s used, speaking as if it were a monthly allowance for good behavior, delivered in a lump sum to these Central American countries for use as officials see fit. If he thinks taking away aid is some kind of punishment or wake-up call to the region, then he’s in for a surprise down the line. Gutting aid is most likely going to increase outmigration.

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