As 5,000 Central American migrants fleeing crime and violence travel slowly towards the United States through Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and now Mexico, U.S. President Donald Trump has used the caravan to stoke fears about immigration in the run-up to the midterms. In tweets over the last week, Trump made a series of incendiary assertions, including claiming that “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” with the caravan. He’s also threatened to cut aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, the three countries that comprise the violence- and corruption-plagued Northern Triangle.
As the data below show, aid to the three countries, which are among the largest recipients of U.S. assistance in the hemisphere, is focused on building the governmental and societal infrastructure to improve quality of life and reduce out-migration in the future.
To view U.S. aid to the Northern Triangle in greater detail, click on the country names to be redirected to the USAID website.
Regional rank in terms of amount of U.S. assistance: 3/34
Total annual aid in 2016: $296,609,820
Top sectors, not including administrative costs: Governance ($83 million), education ($82 million), health and population ($32 million), agriculture ($30 million)
Top activities, not including administrative costs: In-country narcotics program ($29 million), McGovern Dole education and food security program ($27 million), Food for Progress ($18 million), MCC Education Project ($12 million), Security and Justice Sector Reform Project ($9.6 million)
Regional rank: 4/34
Total annual aid in 2016: $127,408,601
Top sectors, not including administrative costs: Governance ($83 million), Agriculture ($15 million)
Top activities, not including administrative costs: Secondary violence prevention ($13 million), in-country narcotics program ($12 million), justice, human rights, and security strengthening ($10 million)
Regional rank: 7/34
Total annual aid in 2016: $74,831,935
Top sectors, not including administrative costs: Governance ($41 million)
Top activities, not including administrative costs: In-country narcotics program ($6.4 million), government integrity ($6.2 million), SolucionES ($5.3 million)
It doesn’t take a genius to see that U.S. aid to the Northern Triangle is aimed at reducing the thing Trump seems to loathe most: out-migration to Mexico and the United States because of violence, corruption, and hunger at home.
Cutting U.S. aid to the Northern Triangle is strategically imprudent for the U.S. government. Experts argue that ending aid would be disastrous for the security and governance situation in the three countries. The cuts would also likely increase flows of migrants fleeing violence and corruption in their home countries to the United States.
So if Trump’s goal is reducing migration from Central America to the United States, why is he threatening the cuts? The logical conclusion is that the threats are purely political. If the fear mongering pays off for Trump and the Republicans in the midterms, look for him to continue vilifying Central American migrants in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.