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President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at the Van Andel Arena on March 28, 2019 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Grand Rapids was the final city Trump visited during his 2016 campaign.
The Trump administration said Saturday that it intends to end foreign assistance programs for Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, a move that Democrats called “reckless” and “counterproductive” in addressing the problems that cause people to flee to the U.S.
A State Department spokesperson said that “at the Secretary’s instruction, we are carrying out the President’s direction and ending FY 2017 and FY 2018 foreign assistance programs for the Northern Triangle,” a term that refers to the three countries.
The spokesperson said “we will be engaging Congress as part of this process,” which could mean it needs Congress’ approval to end funding.
The aid affects nearly $500 million in 2018 funds and millions more left over from the previous fiscal year. The money was destined for Central America but had not been spent yet, the Washington Post reported.
A senior Democratic aide involved in the discussions said they consider the cuts outside the law and unconstitutional and that they would need Congressional approval.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who is the top Democrat on the Republican-chaired Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, called the decision “irresponsible” and “reckless” and he urged Democrats and Republicans to reject it.
“U.S. foreign assistance is not charity; it advances our strategic interests and funds initiatives that protect American citizens,” Menendez said. “This latest reported move shows the Administration still does not understand that the United States cuts foreign aid to Central America at our own peril.”
Crime and violence in the three Central American countries are seen as motivating thousands of people to flee and seek asylum in the United States. Some have advocated that more aid, not less, to the Central American countries would help ease the pressures on people to leave for Mexico and the United States.
The senior Democratic aide said, “The Administration can propose rescissions, but implementation requires Congressional approval.”