Senator Marco Rubio has said that aid to Central American countries “help us more than them” in response to Donald Trump’s threat to cut off foreign aid to countries unable to stop undocumented immigrants making their way to the US.
Both men were talking about a caravan of approximately 7,000 refugees and migrants travelling north towards the US-Mexico border having gone through Honduras and Guatemala.
The president had said on Twitter earlier this week that the Central American countries nor Mexico “were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the US."
"We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to” Honduras and Guatemala, the president said.
Mr Rubio, whose own grandfather came close to being deported as an undocumented immigrant from Cuba, said while he understood why the president would want to punish those countries for not adequately address the rampant poverty and gang violence which have plagued them for years and pushed people to seek asylum or enter the US illegally.
However, Mr Rubio noted “our aid to #Honduras & #Guatemala isn’t cash. It’s primarily equipment & training to stop drugs headed to U.S. & to deal with the gangs causing people to leave those countries.”
Mr Rubio also noted it is “border security” because the aid focuses on violence prevention and ultimately helps the US fight the gangs that are terrorising the people who ultimately wind up on our border”.
According to the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2016, the US gave Honduras nearly $128m, Guatemala $297m, and El Salvador $75m in aid across all federal agencies mostly aimed towards counter-narcotics activities, military training, agricultural subsidies, and violence prevention.
By next year, those sums are projected to fall to $69.4m for Guatemala, $65.8m for Honduras, and $45.7m in the case of El Salvador.
Several international development experts have noted US foreign aid is not perfect but cutting it off to the region could have disastrous effects for children in terms of education and malnutrition, and would allow gangs and government corruption to flourish unchecked.
He also said he had “alerted” US Customs and Border Patrol and the US military.
Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said that while National Guard troops are currently supporting the Department of Homeland Security on the border, the Pentagon had not been asked to provide additional support. There are currently 2,100 National Guard troops along the border in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, according to the Pentagon
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