The United States said Monday it would not offer any more aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras unless they take ‘concrete actions’ to deter undocumented migrants from heading for the US.
In March, the administration of president Donald Trump had suspended aid to the so-called Northern Triangle countries, after the Republican leader accused them of doing nothing on the migrants issue.
On Monday, the government confirmed it had new rules.
‘We completed the review’ of aid programmes to the countries, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.
Some priority programs aimed at curbing illegal migration and funded for $432 million in fiscal 2018 will continue.
But for fiscal 2019, $370 million initially planned will be allocated to other foreign policy priorities, the State Department said.
And all future aid is now conditional.
‘We will not provide new funds for programs in those countries until we are satisfied the Northern Triangle governments are taking concrete actions to reduce the number of illegal migrants coming to the US border,’ Ortagus said.
Tens of thousands of Central Americans fleeing gang violence and poverty have traveled through Mexico in recent years in a bid to try to enter the United States.
Stopping the migrant caravans has become a policy priority for Trump.
In December, the United States and Mexico had agreed to invest a significant amount in the ‘Northern Triangle’ and southern Mexico in the hopes of stemming the migrant tide.
Democratic senator Bob Menendez criticised the government’s decision, calling it an ‘irresponsible’ move that would ‘limit our nation’s ability to actually help address the challenges forcing people to flee to the US.’
Meanwhile, Trump said on Monday that US authorities would begin next week removing millions of immigrants who are in the United States illegally.
‘Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States,’ Trump tweeted, referring to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. ‘They will be removed as fast as they come in,’ he said. He did not offer specifics.
There are an estimated 12 million immigrants who are in the United States illegally, mainly from Mexico and Central America.
Under a deal reached earlier this month, Mexico has agreed to take Central American immigrants seeking asylum in the United States until their cases are heard in US courts.
The agreement, which included Mexico pledging to deploy National Guard troops to stop Central American immigrants from reaching the US border, averted a Trump threat to hit Mexican imports with tariffs.
Trump also said in the tweet that Guatemala ‘is getting ready to sign a Safe-Third Agreement.’
US vice president Mike Pence suggested last week that Guatemala could receive asylum seekers from its neighbours as a so-called safe third country.
Details of the plan have not been made public, and Guatemala has not publicly confirmed talks that the US State Department said were taking place in Guatemala on Friday.
US rights group Human Rights First said, however, it was ‘simply ludicrous’ for the United States to assert that Guatemala was capable of protecting refugees, when its own citizens are fleeing violence.
Mexico has agreed that if its measures to stem the flow of migrants are unsuccessful, it will discuss signing a safe third country agreement with the United States.
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