President Trump’s call to cut aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras is raising concerns among lawmakers and national security and development experts, who say cutting aid will exacerbate the migrant crisis that is already crippling U.S. resources at the Southern border.

By Samantha Raphelson

A spokesperson for the U.S. Agency for International Development told NPR on Tuesday that the agency is carrying out the president’s order to end foreign assistance programs for the Northern Triangle, the area that comprises those three Central American nations. The spokesperson said the agency is still finalizing the allocation of funds for 2019.

Trump has blamed the Central American countries for sending migrant caravans through Mexico to the U.S. border, an idea Trump has repeatedly promoted to raise the alarm about illegal immigration. In tweets on Saturday, Trump also returned to his previous threat to completely seal off the Southern border, blaming Democrats and Mexico for the turmoil at the border.

In an interview on CNN on Sunday, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney defended the administration’s decision to stop aid, claiming U.S. funding to Central America isn’t doing enough to stifle the recent spike in migrants coming from the region.

“The people say it’s working, but the proof is in the numbers. It’s not working well enough to help us solve our border crisis, and that’s what the president is focused on,” Mulvaney said. “And if we’re going to give these countries hundreds of millions of dollars, we would like them to do more.”

The U.S. has allocated $2.1 billion in aid to Central America since 2016, according to a report this year by the Congressional Research Service. Aid to Central America greatly increased under the Obama administration to promote economic prosperity and reduce violence in the region, with the idea being that achieving those two goals would mean fewer people would need to flee to the United States.

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