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Trump directs State Department to cut off aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras

State Department ordered to cut aid

In a decision that may have the opposite effect of its intended impact, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has followed President Trump's direction and ordered the State Department to cut off U.S. aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. 

Mr. Trump indicated on Friday he would be cutting aid to the countries as punishment for their inability to stem the flow of migrants heading to the southern U.S. border. The countries affected make up the so-called "Northern Triangle" and account for the majority of Central American migrants who are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

The State Department began informing Congress of the decision on Friday.  

"At the Secretary's instruction, we are carrying out the President's direction and ending FY 2017 and FY 2018 foreign assistance programs for the Northern Triangle. We will be engaging Congress as part of this process," a spokesperson for the State Department said in a statement.

Mr. Trump told reporters on Friday, "I've ended payments to Guatemala, to Honduras, and to El Salvador. No money goes there anymore." He has threatened to cut off aid in the past, including in an October tweet.

In a statement, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, said Mr. Trump's "irresponsible decision" would "undermine American interests and put our national security at risk."

"Instead of doing our part to help stabilize the situation in the Northern Triangle and stem the flow of children and refugees to our borders, President Trump reportedly wants to make matters worse by blocking resources for programs that get to the root causes of this humanitarian crisis," Menendez said, indicating that members of Congress may try to block the action.

Meanwhile, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen sent a letter to Congress Friday saying that the influx of migrants -- particularly families -- is at a breaking point.

"DHS facilities are overflowing, agents and officers are stretched too thin, and the magnitude of arriving and detained aliens has increased the risk of life-threatening incidents," Nielsen wrote, citing increased numbers of migrants arriving each month in large groups. She said the agency faces a "system-wide meltdown."