Linthicum ’17 (Kate Linthicum, Correspondent in Mexico City who covers Latin America. Since joining the newspaper in 2008, she has covered immigration, local and national politics, and has reported from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. She contributed to the L.A. Times coverage of the San Bernardino terrorist attacks that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2016 and has won two Overseas Press Club awards. She grew up in New Mexico and graduated from Barnard College. “The U.S. and Mexico want to slow migration from Central America. Will mass deportations help?”, http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-mexico-us-security-20171026-story.html, October 27, 2017)
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 an adult were apprehended at the border in 2014. Most of them came from the so-called Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. In June, Vice President Mike Pence seemed committed to that approach when he met with leaders from Mexico and the Northern Triangle to discuss ways to prevent citizens from migrating to the United States. Still, experts said those efforts could be undercut by Trump's other actions in the region. In August, Trump ended an Obama-era program that granted temporary legal residence in the U.S. to Central American children who could prove they were under threat of violence. The program was designed as a safe and legal alternative for children who might have otherwise sought to migrate alone. Without it, migrant advocates fear more minors will head north with smugglers. Advocates also warn that other migration-related policies the administration has enacted or is weighing could destabilize the region by leading to much higher levels of deportations of Central Americans from the U.S. In September, Trump announced that he would be ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era initiative that shields from deportation 800,000 migrants brought to the U.S. as children. Trump is also considering whether to renew protections for immigrants living in the country with Temporary Protected Status, which was granted to tens of thousands of migrants in the wake of natural disasters in Honduras, El Salvador and several other countries. The president has repeatedly called for deporting members of MS-13, a gang active in both the U.S. and El Salvador. In a speech this summer, Trump called the gang members "animals" and promised "they'll be out of here quickly." Mass deportations could be seriously disruptive in the small, poor countries of Central America, said Eric Olson, an expert on the region at the nonpartisan Wilson Center think tank in Washington. It was the large-scale deportation of MS-13 gang members to El Salvador beginning in the 1990s, he said, that helped turn the country into one of the most violent in the world. "The Trump administration runs the risk of undermining its own policy goals," Olson said. "If at the same time they're sending back tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people who can't really integrate well, you may create more instability, and eventually more migration."