In a move that was immediately denounced as "cruel" and counterproductive, the Trump State Department on Saturday confirmed that it is cutting off hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
"Cutting foreign aid to Central America is the absolute last thing the Trump administration should do right now," Vicki Gass, senior policy advisor for Central America and Mexico with Oxfam America, said in a statement. "Not only is it morally wrong, it also counters efforts to address the root causes behind migration."
"While not surprising, we still must call out how cold, callous, and inhumane this is."
—Kristen Clarke, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
"Aid cuts would be devastating to the region and would only foster the same instability that is making people flee in the first place," Gass added.
The decision to slash around $500 million in aid to the three Central American nations comes as President Donald Trump is threatening to "close" the U.S.-Mexico border.
Critics argued that Trump's aid cuts to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala will worsen economic hardship in those nations and force more people to flee out of desperation.
"This will create more refugees. This is the exact opposite of what we should be doing," tweeted journalist Thor Benson.
Some observers accused the president of manufacturing a crisis at the border for political gain.
"Making desperate people even more desperate and less able to stay in their own countries... It's almost as if Trump wants more asylum seekers at the U.S. border," Andrew Stroehlein, European media director with Human Rights Watch, tweeted on Sunday. "As if he wants more media images that he will then twist for his fear-mongering."
This is a very cynical and cruel political move by trump to drive more migration from Central American countries to the US Border so that he can pretend there is a real crisis. One he is literally manufacturing through this cut in aid. https://t.co/z5pKKbuvT0
— Nick Greif (@NickGreif) March 30, 2019
I’ve been to 2 of these places.
Cutting off aid will create more hardships that will increase people seeking asylum. I honestly feel that Trump gets pleasure by making others suffer.
He’s not just a horrible president - he’s a horrible human being. https://t.co/eOM7oPMHD2
— Randy Bryce (@IronStache) March 30, 2019
"While not surprising, we still must call out how cold, callous, and inhumane this is," wrote Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "These are among the poorest parts of Central America."
According to the Washington Post, the president's move "would affect nearly $500 million in 2018 funds and millions more left over from the prior fiscal year. The money was destined for Central America but has not yet been spent."
"This is governance by tantrum," tweeted Vox immigration reporter Dara Lind. "[H]ard to overstate how much this threatens to throw off regional dynamics."