Hundreds of millions of dollars in aid that Congress approved for El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras is stalled at the White House budget office, an impasse that threatens ongoing efforts to stem the influx of asylum seekers from the region.
The holdup: Administration officials aren’t sure whether President Donald Trump wants to withhold the funds for these countries to punish them for the northward flow of migrants.
The money — a significant portion of roughly $627 million that Congress allocated for Central America one year ago — has been in limbo for months at the White House Office of Management and Budget, according to three people with knowledge of the process.
“We have paralysis moving this funding through the Northern Triangle because people don’t know what the president wants,” one State Department official said. “No one wants to do something that looks like they’re not following his guidance.” The paperwork gridlock could undermine a push to address the root causes of out-migration from the region, the official said.
The aid is part of a program launched under former President Barack Obama to foster economic growth, improve governance and increase security in the countries – and is aimed at reducing illegal immigration and illicit trafficking. The programs paid for by the funding include the training and assistance of prosecutors, judges and law enforcement personnel to build functioning justice systems.