WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration defended on Wednesday cuts in direct aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras amid a surge of migrants crossing into the U.S. the southern border. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted that U.S. aid to Central America has so far been ineffective.
“The United states has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to try and build out solutions… it’s a fact of this crisis at the southern border that it has not been effective,” Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations panel. “We are endeavoring to change that we are dealing in reality.”
People from Central America are fleeing north and overwhelming U.S. resources at the U.S.-Mexico border. The chaotic situation contributed to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s resignation Sunday.
The panel’s top Democrat said people were fleeing “because of violent crime.”
“We need to fight at the very essence of that and the very essence of that is not at our border, it’s in Central America,” said Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey.
The State Department notified Congress in March that it would look to suspend 2017 and 2018 payments to the trio of nations. U.S. aid programs to Central America are aimed at strengthening local law enforcement and fostering local development.
President Donald Trump has recently repeated a threat to close the border with Mexico. Trump has never followed through with the threat amid warnings that a closed border could create economic havoc on both sides. The president blames Democrats and Mexico for problems at the border.