Press Release: LAWG Strongly Condemns Administration’s Abrupt & Irrational Announcement to Cut Aid to Central America & Punish Refugees for Seeking Protection

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Andrea Fernández Aponte, Program Associate
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April 1, 2019

LAWG Strongly Condemns Administration’s Abrupt & Irrational Announcement to Cut Aid to Central America & Punish Refugees for Seeking Protection

Washington, D.C.–The Latin America Working Group (LAWG) strongly condemns the Trump Administration’s illogical and abrupt announcement to cut U.S. assistance to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador this past weekend. The proposed cuts, if implemented, would affect all assistance to the three countries’ central governments, as well as to local governments, humanitarian aid organizations, and civil society organizations.

The president’s action to cut off all aid, if not stopped by the Congress, would likely increase forced migration from Central America. And it sends exactly the wrong message—it tells governments to physically block their citizens from fleeing. Instead, U.S. aid and diplomacy should address the roots of migration, including the violence, government corruption, human rights abuses, and poverty that are forcing people to flee,” said Lisa Haugaard, LAWG executive director.

“Targeted sanctions directed at central governments in Guatemala and Honduras for specific acts of corruption and human rights abuse make sense,” said Haugaard. “But a wholesale cutoff of violence prevention, anti-corruption, and poverty alleviation aid through humanitarian nonprofits and local governments is absolutely the wrong strategy.”

This decision follows an announcement made last week on a new regional compact between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the three Central American governments. The agreement was signed in Honduras by DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and the security ministers of the three governments. It includes proposals to strengthen border enforcement, information-sharing, and joint police operations in the region. Like the announcement to cut assistance, this proposal also sends the wrong message.

Instead of this ill-conceived approach, LAWG has joined other NGOs in advocating for a comprehensive approach to addressing the root causes of forced migration and displacement from the region.

“Once again the president is making decisions based on nothing more than xenophobia and his obsession with a border wall. Closing the border and continuing illegal actions to turn away Central American children and families to Mexico will only worsen the humanitarian crisis on the border and hurt border communities. Families, individuals, and children have a right to leave their homes and seek international protection. They should not be punished for doing so,” states Daniella Burgi-Palomino, LAWG senior associate for Mexico, migrant rights, and border issues.

Read our full Recommendations for U.S. Engagement to Address Migration from and Displacement within the Northern Triangle of Central America