WASHINGTON – The Trump administration said Wednesday it will partially restart the flow of U.S. aid to three Central American countries that President Donald Trump had sought to punish over migration to the U.S.
Trump first announced his decision to cut $450 million in foreign aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in March. He said those three countries, known as the Northern Triangle, were not doing enough to stem the flow of immigrants fleeing violence, poverty and crime.
Critics had denounced Trump's move as counterproductive, since the goal of the U.S. funding was to improve conditions in the Northern Triangle so citizens would not leave to seek a better life in America. The U.S. freeze had halted dozens of projects designed to bolster security, the economy, education and judicial systems.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the partial reversal of the aid freeze in a statement on Wednesday, saying he had notified lawmakers "of my intent to resume targeted U.S. foreign assistance funding for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras."
The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, said the move was too little, too late.
“While certain portions of U.S. assistance to the Northern Triangle will resume, significant damage has already been done," Engel, D-N.Y., said on Wednesday. He said the three countries had already lost $400 million in vital U.S. assistance and expressed concern that the resumption of some aid would be contingent on hard-line policies that target vulnerable migrants.
"It remains to be seen precisely what assistance will be provided and if it will be tied to President Trump’s draconian immigration policies," he said.
In explaining the reversal, Pompeo cited dramatic steps the three countries have taken to reduce migration.
"Thanks to the President’s policy and to the response from these countries, we are seeing great progress," he said.
He said some "targeted" funding would restart to allow the countries to make additional progress on stopping immigration.
"This funding will support programs that are advancing our joint efforts to mitigate illegal immigration from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras," he said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump administration will restart targeted U.S. aid to Central America