Late last month, Donald Trump announced his intention to cut off U.S. foreign aid to three countries in Central America’s Northern Triangle: Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. He accused the governments of those countries of not only failing to stop the flow of migrants to the United States, but of purposely sending migrant caravans to the U.S. border. “We were paying them tremendous amounts of money. And we’re not paying them anymore. Because they haven’t done a thing for us,” said the president.
Trump made the same threat last year, writing in a tweet, “Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S. We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to them.”
The “tremendous amounts of money” total about $450 million. According to James Nealon, a former U.S. ambassador to Honduras, “Some U.S. money does go directly to government agencies, including grants to support police, border security agents and judicial employees in those countries,” but “most of the money goes to U.S. contractors, non-profit organizations, and other private groups under close supervision from USAID and the State Department.”
“At the Secretary’s instruction, we are carrying out the President’s direction and ending FY 2017 and FY 2018 foreign assistance programs for the Northern Triangle,” a State Department spokesperson told USA TODAY. “We will be engaging Congress as part of this process.”
But Congress is not too happy with Trump’s unilateral decision.
The Democratic and Republican leaders of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep. Eliot L. Engel, chairman, and Rep. Michael T. McCaul, ranking member, recently released a letter urging the Trump administration to reconsider its plan to cut foreign assistance to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
In their letter addressed to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, they maintain that the assistance “supports efforts to address the challenging economic and security conditions that help form the root causes of mass child and family migration to the United States” and “enables us to combat transnational gangs, like MS-13, that are a threat to our communities here at home.” The assistance “is having positive results, and while improvements can be made, we believe that cutting assistance would be counterproductive and lead to increased migration flows to the U.S.”
They know that because they “recently traveled to El Salvador and witnessed first-hand how the State Department and USAID are driving at-risk youth away from MS-13 and other criminal gangs by providing them with technical skills and job training.” They also “observed a State Department-funded project supported by the FBI that is assisting the Salvadoran government’s investigations and tracking of MS-13 leaders directing criminal activities in the U.S. and Central America.”
Engel and McCaul “acknowledge that more work is needed to address Central America’s challenges.” Consequently, they take their “oversight responsibilities seriously” and “look forward to working with the State Department and USAID to ensure that these programs are an efficient use of taxpayer dollars.” They believe that “ending assistance to Central America outright will not achieve the Trump Administration’s stated objective of curbing migration” but will rather “exacerbate the problems facing these countries.”
According to ForeignAssistance.gov (a U.S. government resource),
Today, the U.S. manages foreign assistance programs in more than 100 countries around the world through the efforts of over 20 different U.S. government agencies. These investments further America’s foreign policy interests on issues ranging from expanding free markets, combating extremism, ensuring stable democracies, and addressing the root causes of poverty, while simultaneously fostering global good will.
Foreign assistance funding is classified into nine categories, which are further detailed into 52 sectors. Funds are uniquely aligned to one category and sector.
The requested foreign assistance budget for fiscal year 2019 is $27.7 billion. Honduras is slated to receive $67.85 million, Guatemala $80.66 million, and El Salvador $46.43 million.
Should foreign aid be cut off to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador? Should it be reduced? Should it be increased? By how much should it be reduced or increased? Should it be reallocated? Should it be conditioned on something? Should those countries be given an ultimatum? Should it be used more efficiently or effectively? Would cutting foreign assistance to them be counterproductive? Will it exacerbate the problems facing them? Will it result in more child and family migration to the United States? Will it really make any difference whether aid is actually cut? Does Trump have the authority to unilaterally cut the aid to them even though Congress has already allocated the money? How much U.S. foreign aid actually reaches individuals in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador?
Those are questions that have been asked by many Americans over the past month.
And they are all completely irrelevant.
Yes, foreign aid should be cut to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, and cut completely and permanently. But foreign aid should also be cut to Israel ($3.3 billion requested for 2019), Egypt ($1.38 billion requested for 2019), Jordan ($1.275 billion requested for 2019), Afghanistan ($632.8 million requested for 2019), and Kenya ($624.3 requested for 2019). Even the $100,000 earmarked for Suriname in 2019 should be withheld.
That is because not one penny should be taken from a single American taxpayer and given to foreign governments, U.S. contractors, NGOs, relief organizations, or individual foreigners.
If it is not the proper role of the U.S. government to provide charity, fight poverty, provide job training, undertake disaster relief, fight disease, feed the hungry, increase literacy, build infrastructure, and drill wells for Americans, then it is certainly inappropriate to do those things for foreigners.
Doling out foreign aid is one of the most blatantly unconstitutional things that Congress does. The list of powers granted to the federal government in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution includes nothing remotely related to foreign assistance. And there are no exceptions for natural disasters, humanitarian concerns, national interest, or political objectives.
The recipients, the cost, the purpose, the reason, and the “benefits” of foreign aid are all irrelevant. Foreign aid is simply money confiscated from American taxpayers and sent to countries that many Americans couldn’t locate on a map and may have never even heard of.
No American should be forced to “contribute” to the aid of the people or the government of any other country. The decision to aid foreigners, like the decision to aid one’s family, friends, or neighbors, is a decision that should be left up to each individual American. All charity should be private and voluntary. Charity that is not voluntary is theft.
If foreign countries want assistance from Americans, they should employ a direct mail firm in the United States to help them solicit donations from Americans. Any American who wants to help the poor, the hungry, the downtrodden, the oppressed, the disadvantaged, or the underprivileged in any county is welcome to do so — on his own dime.
It is time to end all foreign aid, not just aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.