WASHINGTON – The United States resumed on Wednesday assistance funding to Central America’s Northern Triangle states following the signing of agreements to restrict the flow of undocumented immigrants.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that his office informed Congress of his intention “to resume targeted US foreign assistance funding for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.”
The measure came after President Donald Trump’s government at the end of March acted on his threat to suspend funds allocated to those countries, where most of the immigrants who arrive in the US through its southern border come from, as a punishment for the migratory flow.
Pompeo said in his statement that this year following a directive from the president, he ordered the Department of State and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to temporarily suspend assistance “until the governments of these countries took sufficient action to reduce the overwhelming number of migrants coming to the US border.”
In recent months, Washington has reached cooperation agreements on asylum with these countries: the first with Guatemala on July 26, and then with El Salvador on Sept. 20, and with Honduras five days later.
In his statement, Pompeo stressed that the aid will support programs that are strengthening joint efforts to mitigate undocumented immigration from those countries.
“Thanks to the President’s policy and to the response from these countries, we are seeing great progress. Recently signed Asylum Cooperation Agreements (ACAs) are but one example,” Pompeo said.
The US diplomat hoped those resources would also help the countries to develop their capacities to implement the recently signed agreements to “build stronger local asylum systems.”
“The United States commends the creative thinking and commitment of the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to reaching our shared goal of reduced outward migration from these countries to the United States,” he added while assuring that they look forward to continuing “this important work” with these “dedicated partners.”
Earlier, Trump had posted on Twitter that Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras signed “historic” cooperation agreements on asylum and were “working to end the scourge of human smuggling.”
“To further accelerate this progress, the US will soon shortly be approving targeted assistance in the areas of law enforcement & security,” the president said on Twitter, without going into detail.
Pompeo added that the “programs will complement our joint security plans for each government; augment private sector efforts to create economic opportunity; promote rule of law, institution building, and good governance.”
On March 29, Trump executed the threat of cutting assistance to these countries as punishment for the flow of migrants.
The decision was made after the president criticized them for “doing nothing” for Americans and allowing caravans of migrants to arrive in US territory.
Although the authorities didn’t specify at the time what amount of funding would be suspended, they did indicate that the decision would affect the budget approved by Congress for Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador during the fiscal year 2017 (from October 2016 to September 2017) and in the same period of 2018.
Trump described the situation on the border with Mexico, where 132,859 immigrants were detained last May – a figure not seen since March 2006, as a humanitarian crisis.
Since then, the Trump administration has implemented a series of measures, including the expansion of its Remain in Mexico program, which requires asylum seekers to wait in the neighboring country while the US process takes place, which may take weeks or months.