Mexico might be unwilling to pay for President Donald Trump’s border wall, but Trump is apparently willing to pay Mexico, if it will help stanch the flow of illegal immigration, The New York Times reported Thursday.
In a recent notice sent to Congress, the administration said it intended to take $20 million in foreign assistance funds and use it to help Mexico pay plane and bus fare to deport as many as 17,000 people who are in that country illegally.
The money will help increase deportations of Central Americans, many of whom pass through Mexico to get to the American border. Any unauthorized immigrant in Mexico who is a known or suspected terrorist will also be deported under the program, according to the notification, although such people are few in number.
Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Katie Waldman said the purpose of the program is to help with immigration flows along the southern U.S. border.
“We are working closely with our Mexican counterparts to confront rising border apprehension numbers — specifically, a 38 percent increase in families this month alone — directly and to ensure that those with legitimate claims have access to appropriate protections,” Ms. Waldman said.
The plan, which has been debated internally for months, is part of a broader push by the Trump administration to redirect billions in foreign assistance to other priorities. The administration has yet to spend nearly $3 billion in foreign aid, money allocated last year by Congress with broad bipartisan support. Hundreds of millions of dollars meant to help stabilize Syria and support Palestinian schools and hospitals has already been redirected.
Frustrated that Congress will not provide funds for Trump’s immigration agenda but offers billions of dollars in foreign aid, the administration intends to transfer money from the State Department to DHS, which will then hand the funds over to Mexico.
“Congress intended for this money to lift up communities dealing with crime, corruption and so many other challenges, not to expand this administration’s deportation crusade,” said Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “I want answers about why the State Department thinks it can ignore Congress and dump more cash into deportation efforts. Until then, I’ll do whatever I can to stop this.”