Border chief directly contradicts Trump on Central America

The country’s border chief said Sunday that the U.S. needs to “invest in Central America” — two days after President Trump tweeted he’s cutting off aid to three of those countries.

Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Kevin McAleenan contradicted his boss while appearing on ABC’s morning political affairs show “This Week” to discuss the migration crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

When asked if the federal government bears any responsibility for the deaths of two children in U.S. Border Patrol custody this month after migrating from Guatemala, McAleenan said, “I think this is a multi-faceted problem that requires a multi-faceted solution.”

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Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan
Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan is sworn in before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on 'Oversight of U.S. Customs and Border Protection' on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan (R), holds a meeting at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's National Targeting Centre in Sterling, Virginia, U.S. February 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
El comisionado de la Oficina de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza, Kevin McAleenan, testifica en la audiencia de la Comisión de Asuntos Judiciales del Senado sobre "Supervisión de la Oficina de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza", en el Capitolio el martes 11 de diciembre de 2018 en Washington. (AP Foto/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Kevin McAleenan, the Commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, visit U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall in the El Centro Sector in Calexico, California, U.S. October 26, 2018. REUTERS/Earnie Grafton
El comisionado de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza, Kevin McAleenan, derecha, escucha al jefe del comando norte, general Terrence O'Shaughnessy, en conferencia de prensa en Washington, 29 de octubre de 2018. El Pentágono se apresta a enviar 5.200 efectivos a la frontera con México. (AP Foto/Susan Walsh)
Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on 'Oversight of U.S. Customs and Border Protection' on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, right, speaks as Commander of United States Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command Gen. Terrence John O'Shaughnessy, left, listens during a news conference in Washington, Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, on the Department of Defense deployment to the Southwest border. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, talks with reporters at the U.S. Border Patrol Central Processing Center, Monday, June 25, 2018, in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan speaks at a roundtable during an event to salute U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan arrives at a news conference on the Department of Defense's plan to deploy of forces to the Southwest border at U.S. Customs & Border Protection headquarters in Washington, U.S., October 29, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen listens to Kevin McAleenan, the Commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol during her visit to the border wall in the El Centro Sector in Calexico, California, U.S. October 26, 2018. REUTERS/Earnie Grafton
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Investing in the countries where many of today’s migrants are coming from are one of the solutions, according to the head of Customs.

“We also need to invest in Central America," McAleenan said. “The State Department's announcement of an unprecedented increase in aid, I think is a tremendous step forward. There are green shoots of progress, both on security and the economic front in Central America, we need to foster that and help improve the opportunities to stay at home.”

The remarks come on the heels of Trump stating that he’ll be slashing aid to Central America.

“Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are doing nothing for the United States but taking our money,” Trump tweeted Friday. “Word is that a new Caravan is forming in Honduras and they are doing nothing about it. We will be cutting off all aid to these 3 countries - taking advantage of U.S. for years!”

“This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz asked McAleenan what would happen if aid was cut off, as the President said he’d do.

“Let me go back to Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala — you have traveled there, you talked about that aid package — if there wasn’t aid going there, if that aid was cut off, what would the result be, more problems?” she asked.

“The need is for an accountable partner on the part of the Guatemalan, Honduran and El Savadorian governments,” McAleenan said. “When we work together, with well-targeted programs and really targeting them at areas where we’re seeing migration like the Western Highlands of Guatemala where there’s a real poverty and hunger crisis — it’s one of the most food insecure regions in the hemisphere, huge rates of malnutrition.”

He added that the U.S. has “great programs there” to help relieve poverty and hunger, “but we need the government to step in and join us in that effort.”

McAleenan has been commissioner of Customs and Border Protection since January of 2017. Trump nominated him to permanently take the role in May of 2017, and his nomination was confirmed last March.

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