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U.S. Plans To Cut Aid To 3 Countries Over Crisis At Southern Border


President Trump says countries in Central America aren't doing enough to keep people from migrating to the U.S. As a result, he wants to cut off U.S. foreign aid to three specific countries - Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Here's what acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney had to say about it yesterday on ABC's "This Week."


MICK MULVANEY: There's a lot of good ways to help solve this problem. Congress could do it, but they're not going to. Mexico could help us do it; they need to do a little bit more. Honduras could do more. Nicaragua could do more. El Salvador could do more. And if we're going to give these countries hundreds of millions of dollars, we would like them to do more.

MARTIN: But much of that U.S. foreign aid isn't sent directly to governments; it often funds nonprofits and NGOs trying to deal with some of the issues that are causing people to flee in the first place - nonprofits like Glasswing International. The organization works throughout Central America, including in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, primarily in the fields of education and health. Joining us on the line now is Glasswing's CEO; his name is Ken Baker, and he joins us on the line from Costa Rica. Mr. Baker, thanks for being here.

KEN BAKER: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you so much for having me.

MARTIN: Can you explain what kind of difference this decision to cut aid would make to the work that you do?

BAKER: You know, it's - you know, listening to those stories up - about - in El Paso, and that description is just so difficult to hear. And, you know, we at Glasswing, like many of the nonprofits that work there, that receive funding to support efforts there, are really trying to tackle the problem at the root, at where the problem is. And we believe once you're at the border, once you're talking about policy in the U.S., it's too late; I mean, the problem is down there.

And to have funding cut, essentially, abruptly, potentially - I mean, we're not sure exactly what will happen because, you know, fortunately, both Republicans and Democrats, they're very bipartisan; they do understand the value of foreign aid and especially to this region. But do - you know, a lot of these programs - our continuity, and to - you know, one of the most important rules of development is, you just can't cut, all of a sudden, a program that you have. It takes a while to build up trust and confidence...

MARTIN: Right.

BAKER: ...You know, especially for some of our programs.

MARTIN: So let me ask you - President Trump says essentially that these countries do need to work on root causes, that it should be their mandate. So you're doing the work that the president says he'd like to see more of. But at the same time, does government not have a place? I mean, do you think that the local governments in these countries, the national governments, are doing enough to support you, to support your work, to create countries and societies that people don't want to flee from?

BAKER: Well, you know, one of the misnomers that is out there is that - you know, on one side of it, sure, these countries could do more and need to do more, and these are major challenges. But the challenges are huge as far as violence goes. But one of the misnomers in migration is that these countries - this is a positive for these countries. And, you know, and one of the things that has been talked about is, how - you know, that they aren't doing enough. But they really do work with us. They do work with the U.S. government. They - it is in their interests.

Once someone makes a decision to leave, once an individual, a family, a community member, makes a decision to leave, the problems are exacerbated by five times, in my estimation, because, you know, it's such a difficult decision to make, to go north, and it leaves a brain drain. It leaves a family to - a breakdown in families. It leaves, you know, youth without their parents sometimes. And it creates - you know, it creates individuals that are - have serious debt once they go forward. They have PSTD (ph), they - to try to - you know, one of our objectives...


BAKER: ...As well is to reinsert individuals into their communities. And so once they leave, it's - the problems are definitely exacerbated.

MARTIN: Ken Baker is the CEO of Glasswing; it's a nonprofit that works with communities in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras - the countries being targeted for U.S. foreign aid cut off from President Trump. Thank you so much for your time this morning.

BAKER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.