Law enforcement over food aid

Under the agreement with Guatemala, an outline of which was obtained by NBC News, nearly 90 Americans from Immigration and Customs and Enforcement and CBP are slated to deploy to Guatemala to stop immigrants from other Central American countries from passing through their borders on the way to the U.S. Vehicles and equipment to help Guatemalan law enforcement are also included in the deal, which was outlined in May and solidified in July.

The outline states: “Enhancing border security is sought in order to reduce irregular migration flows; carry out the necessary training to support and enhance criminal investigations; concrete actions to counteract human trafficking and human smuggling; and the interdiction of illicit drug trafficking…” Nowhere in the agreement is food insecurity or foreign aid mentioned.

Under the Trump administration, the United States has funded $150 million through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the federal government’s development finance institution, to increase housing opportunities in Guatemala. And an agreement between Guatemala and the Department of Labor was signed in July to ensure that Guatemalan farm workers coming to the U.S. on temporary visas are vetted by the Guatemalan government. But none of those actions take on the impact of climate change and variability on the food supply in Guatemala’s highlands.

Rodrigo Carrillo Ordonez, 48, walks under a fruit tree on the property filled with his many coffee plants in May. He said he would be going to the U.S. because he cannot make money to provide for himself and his family with his coffee plants. Sarah L. Voisin / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

Between 2012 and 2018, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) committed around $200 million to rural development programs in Guatemala, according to a USAID document reviewed by NBC News. USAID has operated programs in Guatemala specifically “designed to help to mitigate the impact of drought and coffee leaf rust,” a climate change-fueled fungus, according to an agency spokesperson. “We continue to move forward on the President’s decision regarding foreign assistance for Guatemala, and have ceased obligating new funds for Guatemala.”

The move to freeze funding frustrated those within the administration and outside of it who had been advocating for solutions to the “push factors” of immigration over law enforcement-oriented solutions that crack down on “pull factors,” like building a wall to block migrants at the U.S. border.

But a DHS official said the high turnover inside the agency has made officials nervous about keeping their jobs and anxious to please the White House, particularly senior adviser Stephen Miller. “Everyone knows Miller isn’t interested in hearing about climate change,” the DHS official said.

Aarne Heikkila and Mitch Koss contributed.



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