Former US President, Donald Trump, has admitted that he withheld federal funding to punish Central America over immigration to the United States. Trump claims that three Central American nations ‘abused the US immigration system’, prompting him to withdraw vital funding.
In a recent interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham, Trump was shown a video clip of Democratic House Speaker Nanci Pelosi. In the clip, Pelosi claimed that Trump had pulled federal funding from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, three countries that make up the so-called Northern Triangle, as punishment for high immigrant numbers heading to America.
When Pelosi’s claims were put to Trump by Ingraham, the former President replied: “Absolutely I withdrew funding. That’s right. We were paying them $500 million a year. Nobody knew what they were doing with the money, and they were sending criminals to our country.”
They abused us
Trump went on to add: “They [El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras] abused us in so many different ways.” He then accused the leaders of each of the nations of refusing to accept murderers and members of the violent MS13 gang that had been apprehended at the US southern border by ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The former President said: “They wouldn’t take them. I stopped paying the $500 million that we were wasting when giving it to them.”
According to Trump, a day after pulling the funding, the leaders of each country called US officials stating that they’d ‘love to have MS13 come back into their countries. Please send them immediately, and we won’t send any more bad people,’ a comment that had Ingraham laughing in response.
Hundreds of millions withdrawn
At the end of March 2019, it was announced by the Trump administration that $450 million in direct funding would be withdrawn from the three countries because of their failure to control emigration.
Official Department of Homeland Security data shows that the Northern Triangle is the primary source of immigrants to the United States. Most flee the region to escape high murder rates, gang violence, high unemployment levels and a lack of access to food, necessities and social services.
Meanwhile, recent natural disasters have also heightened immigration to the US from these regions.
Trump’s funding cuts were an attempt to reduce migration flows from Central American regions by helping each country to stabilize themselves politically and economically to prevent mass migration caused by violence and corruption.
Funding programs paid millions to dozens of local and international, non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These organizations were tasked with overseeing development and humanitarian programs on behalf of the US government.
NGOs had to scale back
However, when Trump cut off funds, many NGOs were forced to scale back their programs or end them prematurely, resulting in layoffs and office closures.
The withdrawal of funds attracted heavy criticism. Following a visit to the Northern Triangle in August 2019, Democratic Congressman for Massachusetts, Jim McGovern, said: “Under questioning, [US embassy staff in the countries] basically conceded that this freeze is a rotten thing to do. Rather than trying to fix the situation, we’re making it worse.”
In October 2019, Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the administration did plan on partially restoring the funding. Pompeo said that the countries had taken some steps to reduce migration from the region to the US.
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