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Press Release

U.S. aid cuts to Central America will stall progress made, intensify violence, and increase forced displacement

  • U.S. aid cuts to the Northern Triangle countries would halt the progress that has been made to reduce and respond to gang violence, a proven factor in reducing displacement and migration.
  • The IRC predicts that cuts in aid, coupled with the Administration’s asylum policies and intention to return hundreds of thousands of Central Americans with TPS in the U.S., will increase the violence and instability that have forced thousands to flee.
  • The IRC calls for the renewal of aid and an improved focus on the root causes of migration.
  • The current focus on insecurity, violence, and lack of opportunity are sensible but incomplete. Early childhood and young school age education are key for addressing gang recruitment - as the average age for gang entry is 12.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) warns that the Trump Administration’s aid cuts will significantly impact efforts toward stability in the Northern Triangle of Central America – Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador – and could exacerbate violence and forced displacement, reduce help for those fleeing, and undermine hard-fought progress for vulnerable populations in the region.

Said David Miliband, President and CEO of The International Rescue Committee –

“The Administration’s policy toward the Northern Triangle is both inhumane and illogical. Cutting aid, closing borders, and returning thousands to unsafe and unstable countries is bad policy and bad strategy—putting lives and American interests at risk.

“I visited The IRC’s mission in El Salvador just last month, where I met community leaders and NGOs dedicated to addressing trauma and assisting families and individuals displaced from pervasive violence. This great work, this brave work, is needed more than ever - and needs to be supported and enhanced, not cut back.

“For too long the crisis in the Northern Triangle has been defined by those arriving at the border, yet that lens fails to address why they are coming – the mothers, fathers and children I met, who just want to be safe in their homes and communities. Limiting aid – and the region’s capacity for solutions at home – only increases their suffering. It is their fear and suffering that forces them to flee.”

The Center for Global Development (CGD) has noted that the USAID-funded crime prevention programming, under USAID’s Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), was shown to reduce reports of homicide and extortion by half. Violence is a primary driver for individuals and families fleeing. For less than 2 percent of the U.S. foreign aid budget, these programs are saving lives and helping to reduce the root causes of displacement.

As an organization on the ground in El Salvador, The IRC’s assessment is that current aid is necessary but insufficient. Security and economic growth initiatives, youth-job training, and violence prevention are important - but they are incomplete. Education, especially early childhood and young school age education, are key to ending violence as gang recruitment ages drop younger and younger. Even prior to aid cuts, this represented the very smallest portions of the U.S. investment in the region. Now is the time to do more, not less.

The IRC calls on the Administration to restore its aid to the region - and in the United States, reverse the harmful policy course it has taken. Immediate steps can be taken to address this today:

  • The Trump Administration should reverse its decision to cut foreign aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Congress should ensure that funds it has appropriated are spent by the administration.
  • Halt the “Remain in Mexico” program which forcibly returns asylum seekers to Mexico to await their immigration hearings - undermining of their due process rights and exposing vulnerable people to potential harm.
  • Reinstate the Central American Minors (CAM) program which provided vulnerable children a safe and legal pathway to escape danger and reunite with their parents legally residing in the United States. For those in the United States, sustain the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Northern Triangle countries and provide them a permanent solution.
  • For those within the asylum system, reinstate the Family Case Management Program, a formal alternative to detention. Prior to its cancellation by the administration, it had a 99 percent compliance rate for immigration court hearings. The administration should also dedicate resources to processing asylum claims at the border.
  • Finally, the administration should ensure that it meets this year’s Presidential Determination of 30,000 and sets a refugee admissions ceiling of no less than 75,000 in the next fiscal year. Further, members of Congress should support Senator Markey’s GRACE Act, which would set a refugee admissions floor of 95,000.

These are common sense solutions, with a track record of progress that have benefitted the U.S. and Northern Triangle countries and – most critically – these are solutions that would keep vulnerable populations safe from harm.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 26 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.