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Trump Administration Restores Central American Aid After Immigration Deals

Migrants from Honduras walk along a road in Esquipulas, Guatemala January 16, 2019. (Jorge Cabrera/Reuters)

The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it will restore economic aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras after reaching deals on immigration with the three countries.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the “targeted assistance,” which reportedly amounts to close to $150 million, will be reinstated. The aid was cut off earlier this year “until the governments of these countries took sufficient action to reduce the overwhelming number of migrants coming to the U.S. border.”

“To enable further progress in these countries’ efforts, some targeted Department of State and USAID funding will resume at this time,” Pompeo said. “This funding will support programs that are advancing our joint efforts to mitigate illegal immigration from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.”

The administration has signed deals on immigration with all three countries in recent months. In July, the U.S. signed a “safe third country” agreement with Guatemala, which stipulates that the U.S. may send away asylum seekers who have passed through Guatemala without attempting to obtain asylum there first. The U.S. has signed less specific deals with El Salvador and Honduras pledging to work together to address the heavy migration flow.

However, federal courts blocked the Trump administration policy forbidding asylum applications from migrants who passed through other countries without seeking asylum. The Supreme Court granted the administration a stay on that ruling in September, allowing the White House to carry out its policy pending the outcome of litigation.

More than 850,000 migrants were apprehended crossing the southern border illegally in fiscal year 2019. A record-shattering 420,000 were part of family units fleeing violence in Central American countries. Arrests peaked in May, when more than 132,000 migrants were caught crossing illegally.

“Guatemala, Honduras & El Salvador have all signed historic Asylum Cooperation Agreements and are working to end the scourge of human smuggling. To further accelerate this progress, the U.S. will shortly be approving targeted assistance in the areas of law enforcement & security,” Trump wrote in a tweet.

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