Saturday, March 30, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He threatened to end funding meant to prevent the humanitarian crisis he both does and doesn't believe exists.

The State Department announced today that it was cutting economic aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Refugees from these countries account for a large number of the asylum seekers who have sought to enter the United States recently. 

As is common in the Trump administration, his decision seems to have caught his own staff by surprise: just yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security announced a "historic" agreement with those same countries to improve cooperation on the migration issue.

In the past week, Trump has been returning to his nativist roots, complaining that other countries are not doing enough to make his immigration policy work. He has renewed his perennial promise to close the U.S.-Mexico border entirely to "punish" Mexico for failing to completely stop the flow of Central American migrants through its southern border. (This is an empty threat: it would cause massive economic damage to the United States to end legal border crossings, and refugee claims would be legally unaffected.)

While Trump has some legal authority to withhold aid to these countries, awarding it is essentially the only thing the United States can do to keep the number of refugees from increasing. Trump himself has acknowledged that there is a "humanitarian crisis"—which he has used to justify keeping children of asylum seekers in cages. 

But it's not at all clear that Trump actually understands that he was correct in saying so. At a rally this week, he mocked refugees and said that their claims of fleeing starvation, gangs, sexual violence, and government persecution were a "big fat con job."

Why should I care about this?

  • It's bad if nobody who works for a president knows what his policy positions are from day to day.