Cutting U.S. aid to Central America will be at the expense of migrants

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If Trump is able to deliver both of his promises — cut U.S. aid to Central America and close the southern border — it will be at the expense of Central Americans. (Gregory Bull/AP)

On March 28, President Donald Trump publicly blamed Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries for the current migrant crisis on his Twitter account. On April 2, President Trump called for cutting United States aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, fulfilling earlier threats. Once again, President Trump is wrong about the causes of the Central American migrant crisis. The current Central American migrant crisis is the result of instability in Central America, economic depression and a broken immigration system. Therefore, Trump’s calls to cut aid to those nations and to close the southern border are symbolic at best, and do not address the real issues.

In 2014, thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America showed up at the southern border, prompting the Obama administration to declare a crisis at the southern border. Obama met with the leaders of the Northern Triangle countries and asked Congress for one billion dollars in U.S. aid to address the migrant crisis before it reached the U.S. border. Congress granted Obama half of his request. As of fiscal year 2018, El Salvador received $118 million in U.S. aid, while Honduras received $180 million and Guatemala received $257 million, for a combined total $557 million for the three countries. In exchange, the Central American governments pledged to deter emigration at home by discouraging prospective migrants and implementing programs to reduce violence and poverty. Despite these measures, the U.S. has another migrant crisis on his hands, one that according to Border and Customs Patrol may surpass 2014 levels.

President Trump’s frustration with the migrant crisis should not be surprising, given the 2014 crisis and decades of a broken immigration system. However, President Trump is using the crisis to advance an agenda that is anti-immigrant rather than promoting dialogue on the real issues. His proposals to close the border and cut U.S. aid to Central America only make sense in a vacuum, where an issue does not merit the consideration of history and external factors. The reality is that U.S. involvement in Central America, corruption among Central American politicians and the powerful gangs have contributed to the inhumane conditions that force thousands of Central Americans to leave their homes and head to the U.S.

If Trump is able to deliver both of his promises — cut U.S. aid to Central America and close the southern border — it will be at the expense of Central Americans. It will exacerbate the backlog of immigration cases and increase migration from Central America (which he is so desperately trying to reduce). Migrants that make it to a port of entry or into the U.S. will be stuck in the immigration system for years, and the rest will face dangerous conditions at the border as we have seen in the past few years. Moreover, Central American countries like Honduras depend heavily on remittances and U.S. aid, with more than half of its gross domestic product being generated by cash flow from the U.S. Clearly, cutting U.S. aid would have a negative impact on the Honduran economy and would weaken institutions that help prevent violence, poverty and corruption. In fact, most of the aid provided by the U.S. does not go directly to the government but rather to non-governmental organizations that focus on addressing the aforementioned issues, which are the causes of the migrant crisis.

President Trump should reconsider his stance on the Central American migrant crisis if he is really interested in solving the crisis at the border. If he is only interested in rallying his base around immigration, then his policies make perfect sense.


Michael Hernandez is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at michael.g.2.hernandez@uconn.edu.

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