The United States and Mexico are teaming up in a new effort to stem the flow of immigrants from Central America, even as President Trump weighs policy changes that critics argue could spur insecurity in the region and drive more people north.
In recent years, more people entering the U.S. illegally have come from Central American countries than from Mexico, with more than 200,000 Central Americans detained at the border in 2016.
The new initiative aims to discourage people from leaving Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala by funding projects over the next six months to improve the economies and security situation in those countries while reducing corruption.
“We’re taking on what we both recognize as the drivers of mass migration,” said Mark Green, the administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, who announced the collaboration Thursday after meeting with his counterparts in Mexico City.
Migrants don’t want to leave their homes and family behind, Green said: “If we can take on those drivers at home, then kids get a normal life.”
While Trump asked for a reduction in funding for Central America in his proposed budget to Congress earlier this year — part of a suggested 30% cutback across the State Department — the initiative is a continuation of a strategy forged by his predecessor.
President Obama persuaded Congress to approve more than $750 million in development aid for Central America after more than 68,000 children traveling without a parent or adult were apprehended at the border in 2014. Most of them came from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.