The State Department has made clear it was not just an idle threat. The United States will be blocking all federal aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras for their failure to address the flow of migrants. The move comes a day after President Donald Trump blamed the countries for being behind migrant caravans that make their way to the United States. “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,” Trump said on Friday. Trump also warned he was ready to close the southern border if Mexico doesn’t do more to push back migrants.
The State Department confirmed on Saturday that the aid threat was becoming a reality. “We are carrying out the President’s direction and ending [fiscal year] 2017 and [fiscal year] 2018 foreign assistance programs for the Northern Triangle,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement. “We will be engaging Congress as part of this process.” The Northern Triangle refers to the three northern Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The three countries were set to receive around $500 million in aid in the 2018 fiscal year plus millions more that were left over from last year, according to the Washington Post.
The move was met with immediate criticism as New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called it a “reckless announcement” and urged his colleagues on both sides of he aisle to reject the initiative. “U.S. foreign assistance is not charity; it advances our strategic interests and funds initiatives that protect American citizens,” Menendez said in a statement.
Trump’s repeated threats to slash aid to Central American nations opened a rift in the government, with many pushing back by saying the funds help slow down migration. But Trump and his closest allies say the governments must do more to slow down the flow of people toward the United States. The slashing of aid to the three Central American countries also comes mere days after Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of Homeland Security, signed what she characterized as an unprecedented agreement with the Northern Triangle countries to prevent migration and help with U.S. border security.