After President Donald Trump suggested Monday that he would block foreign aid to three Central American countries in retaliation for a caravan of thousands of migrants who are trekking north towards the U.S.-Mexico border, retiring Republican Senator Jeff Flake questioned the wisdom of such a response.
“His approach to this issue is not helpful,” Flake told CNN’s Jake Tapper at the network’s CITIZEN conference.
“We have very little foreign aid going, and the aid we do have helps them with law enforcement, drug interdiction, and with programs to help that population stay there,” said the Arizona senator. “Cutting those programs indiscriminately — those benefit us as well.”
Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S. We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to them.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2018
According to the Associated Press, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador received more than $500 million combined from the United States during fiscal year 2017. The caravan is made up primarily of Hondurans, and is still more than 1,000 miles from the United States, Reuters reports.
Trump also claimed on Monday morning that “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” the caravan, prompting him to alert Border Patrol and the U.S. military that “this is a National Emergy.” (Apart from his typo-ridden tweet, the president has not actually put forward a public declaration to institute a state of national emergency.)
Flake addressed the tweet during his interview with Tapper, conceding that there may be criminals in the caravan, but pushing back on Trump’s characterization of the group, which includes thousands of families and children.
“These, for the most part, overwhelmingly, are people who are either fleeing violence or looking for a better life,” said Flake. “We have programs for some of them — asylum programs… obviously we can’t accept everyone. We have to have border security, but it needs to be done in a thoughtful manner.”