News & Politics

U.S. Cuts Aid to Central American Countries as Trump Threatens to Close the U.S. Border

Migrants wait in line to get their names on a waiting list to apply for asylum in the United States, at the border. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The State Department announced that U.S. aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras would end after Donald Trump accused those nations of “setting up” migrant caravans that are arriving at the U.S. border.

The foreign assistance programs for FY 2017 and 2018 would be ended under the plan. The dollar amount is comparatively small — about $1.3 billion — but the signal being sent is unmistakable. Those countries must do more to control the mass of humanity that is now flooding the U.S. border in nearly unprecedented numbers.

Customs and Border Protection Commissioner  Kevin McAleenan said Wednesday during a visit to El Paso that the border had hit its “breaking point” and urged Congress to come up with legislative solutions to the problem. USA Today reports that one Texas city official remarked, “It’s staggering,” McAllen City Manager Roy Rodriguez said. “Really, we’ve never seen anything like this before” as migrants are flooding Texas cities.

This is what a crisis looks like. And the president is now threatening to take the nearly unprecedented step of closing the U.S. border with Mexico as immigration facilities all along the southwestern border are overwhelmed and filled to capacity.

Border Patrol officials were on pace in March for more than 100,000 apprehensions and encounters with migrants – the highest monthly tally in over a decade, he said. Around 90 percent of those – or 90,000 – crossed the border between legal ports of entry.

The vast majority of those crossing between ports of entry turn themselves into Border Patrol agents, seeking asylum.

“The surge numbers are just overwhelming the entire system,” McAleenan said.

President Donald Trump recently declared a national emergency at the border to secure funding for a proposed wall, despite Congressional opposition. On Friday, the president in a tweet threatened to close the U.S.-Mexico border if Mexico didn’t stop undocumented migrants from coming.

But not even Trump’s proposed wall could stop the wave of migrants overflowing shelters in the Rio Grande Valley, where the vast majority are turning themselves in to apply for asylum, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said.

Closing the border would have a severe economic impact on both the U.S. and Mexico.

Fox News:

“Mexico must use its very strong immigration laws to stop the many thousands of people trying to get into the USA. Our detention areas are maxed out & we will take no more illegals,” Trump tweeted. “Next step is to close the Border! This will also help us with stopping the Drug flow from Mexico!”

The president has repeatedly threatened this week to take action at the border and claimed Thursday that Mexico wasn’t doing anything to help prevent “the flow of illegal immigrants to our Country.” He also accused multiple Central American nations of doing “nothing.”

Trump took matters a step further on Friday, tweeting that “If Mexico doesn’t immediately stop ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States through[sic] our Southern Border, I will be CLOSING the Border, or large sections of the Border, next week.”

El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala have zero motivation to do anything to halt the flood of humanity heading for our border. Perhaps cutting aid will be a wake-up call. After all, these nations are not powerless, nor are they blind. They watch as these caravans leave their countries knowing full well what they’re about and where they are going.

Whether they encourage it or actually assist with the caravans is unclear, but if they are, this move should stop that practice.

Closing the border would not be a long-term solution — not with the dramatic effect it would have on U.S.-Mexico trade. But Trump is right. Mexico is lending a helping hand to these caravans, allowing them to traverse the entire length of the country only to see them arrive at the U.S. border, where they apply for asylum and are then released.

The situation has become intolerable and the president is proposing drastic action to address it. But that’s what’s needed in a crisis. And Democrats who are whining about cutting aid to the corrupt governments in Central America are simply ignoring the severity of the problem in order to play politics.