As a person of faith, I believe in diplomacy that uses a variety of strategies to enable people to lead lives of dignity by building links between nations with common interests and values. I reject any attempt to use foreign aid as a weapon to bully other countries and their citizens into compliance with partisan policy goals.
Consequently, I urge you to reject President Trump’s call to rescind aid to the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. I call on the State Department to cease playing politics with the lives of asylum-seekers and migrants coming to the U.S.-Mexico border in search of a better life. I encourage the State Department to instead use its resources and expertise to employ foreign aid as a tool to engage stakeholders in a way that recognizes our shared priorities and the need for long-term, creative solutions.
In accordance with the Jesuit tradition of being “contemplatives in action,” I welcome a critical approach to foreign aid that conditions assistance on each country’s demonstrated commitment to protecting and promoting democracy and human rights. I continue to be concerned by issues such as extrajudicial killings by police, ongoing corruption, and high levels of impunity present in all three countries in the Northern Triangle. These issues contribute substantially to the instability and insecurity at the root of out-migration from the region. Indeed, suspending certain types of assistance, especially security assistance, may at times be necessary to ensure governments are meeting conditions set by Congress. However, suspending aid as a means to discipline a country or its people, especially when those people are fleeing from dire circumstances, is neither an appropriate nor effective use of diplomacy.
Foreign aid has great potential to address insecurity and poverty, the two issues most severely contributing to emigration from the region, but only if those in authority have the courage to resist the temptation to react in ways that fulfill short-term political goals, and instead make a long-term investment in the development of Central America and the well-being of our fellow brothers and sisters.