US to Withhold Hundreds of Millions in Aid From El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras

June 17, 2019 Updated: June 17, 2019

The administration of President Donald Trump announced on June 17 that it will withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, the main source of mass illegal migration into the United States.

“We will not provide new funds for programs in those countries until we are satisfied the Northern Triangle governments are taking concrete actions to reduce the number of illegal migrants coming to the U.S. border,” said a spokesperson for the State Department.

“This is consistent with the president’s direction and with the recognition that it is critical that there be sufficient political will in these countries to address the problem at its source.”

The three countries, known collectively as the Northern Triangle, will continue receiving aid from contracts and grants that are currently active from fiscal year 2017, totaling roughly $400 million. The administration left intact aid funds meant to help stem the flow of illegal migrants and combat international organized crime. Approximately $200 million in aid remains on hold in an escrow account, the State Department spokesperson said.

On March 29, Trump told reporters that he ordered foreign aid to be cut from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The State Department said it conducted a review following the president’s order and determined that the three countries are not doing enough to curb migration to the United States.

Since 2017, the apprehensions of people crossing the border illegally have substantially increased—up from less than 416,000 in fiscal 2017 to over 521,000 last year. In fiscal 2019, the inflow is on pace to reach nearly a million illegal aliens, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said on March 6. The largest group of the migrants continues to be from the Northern Triangle.

The United States has aided Central American countries for years with the hope of developing the kind of stable political and economic systems which would result in lower migration. Trump, however, appears to demand concrete steps to stop the migration now.

“We were paying them tremendous amounts of money and we’re not paying them anymore because they haven’t done a thing for us,“ the president said on March 29.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump first warned that he would cut foreign aid in a message to Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez in October last year.

The president threatened to cut funds from Honduras unless Hernandez steps in to stop and turn around a migrant caravan traveling through Mexico from Honduras.

The caravan kept moving with thousands of migrants storming the border near San Ysidro, California, on Nov. 25. Some migrants were caught on video throwing rocks at border security officers and breaking through border barriers only to be repelled with tear gas.

Trump threatened to cut aid from all three countries in a late December message on Twitter.

“Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are doing nothing for the United States but taking our money,” Trump wrote. “Word is that a new Caravan is forming in Honduras and they are doing nothing about it. We will be cutting off all aid to these 3 countries—taking advantage of U.S. for years!”

Follow Ivan on Twitter: @ivanpentchoukov
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