Fact Check: Did Trump Cut Aid to Central America?

The Democratic Party’s bloated 2020 election race is already underway with over 25 candidates trying to get to the start line for a run at the White House. One of their first chances to stand out from the other candidates was the two-part Democratic Debate, which gave the candidates a chance to make wild claims aimed at impressing the far-left voters they all seem to be aiming for. Former Vice President Joe Biden decided to tell the audience that the Trump administration had “immediately discontinued” an aid program for Central America and that this was the cause of the surge in immigration across our border with Mexico. Alarming claims — but are they true?

Highlights

  • Biden was talking about the “US Strategy for Engagement in Central America,” an Obama-era program that launched in 2016 with a budget of $750 million. This budget immediately started to taper off, with 2017 spending falling to under $685 million. That budget was set in the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2016 — before President Trump was even elected.
  • Since then the budget has been cut further, falling to $527.6 million for 2019 and planned to drop again, to $445 million, in 2020. So yes, the Trump administration is reducing the value of the program — but they’re just continuing planned cuts that began under Obama.
  • There’s also the point that $445 million is still a lot of money, so any claim that the program was “immediately discontinued” is just plain wrong.
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  • One thing that has ended is future aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Projects in these countries that have already been approved will go ahead, but no new ones will be approved.
  • Because these three countries are the source of many of the illegal migrants attempting to enter the US, it’s easy for the Left to claim the cuts are the cause. By making these countries poorer, they say, we’re forging migration.
  • This only holds up if you ignore time, though. Aid to those countries was cut as a response to increased migration — why should the US subsidize countries that are making no effort to control the so-called migrant caravans launched from their territory?

Overall, migration from Central America is much higher than it was before President Trump took office, but does that mean the increase is caused by cuts in the aid program? No. The current migration levels are three times higher than they were before the program was even launched. Yes, illegal migration is rising — but it isn’t the Trump administration’s tapering off of taxpayer money that’s causing it. Biden is simply wrong. Go figure.

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