News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Fri. Mar. 1, 2013: The Caribbean and Latin America will also feel the pinch if the U.S. Republican controlled Congress has its way and smacks the Obama administration with sequestration.
The decision, much like the fiscal cliff, could have dire effects, forcing $85 billion in indiscriminate spending cuts that would hit most federal programs, including immigration services and narco-trafficking programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. The cuts, known as the sequester — take effect, on March 1, threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs, and cutting vital services for children, seniors, people with mental illness and the military.
In a letter on Feb. 11 to Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski, chairwoman of the Committee on Appropriations, newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, said the State Department would have to cut “support for law enforcement and counternarcotics efforts, including efforts to dismantle drug trafficking networks in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.”
Additionally, visa processing will become backlogged both locally in the U.S. and at consuls around the world, including the Caribbean and Latin America, falling a victim to budget cuts while diplomatic consulates in these regions will also be impacted by the forced cuts to the tune of some $2.6 billion.
The regions’ economy could also be impacted. A January 2013 World Bank report estimates that Latin America and the Caribbean’s total GDP growth could be reduced by 1.2 percent as a result of the United States’ fiscal uncertainty.
So far, the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement Agency has released hundreds of non-violent illegal immigrants from jails as officials looked for ways to save soon-to-be scarcer resources.
The $85 billion across-the-board budget cuts are due to begin on Friday, March 1, and might eventually force the government to scale back on a host of services such as air traffic control, law enforcement and food safety inspections.
An agreement in Congress would halt the cuts. Republicans claim it’s the only way to balance the budget instead of raising tax loopholes on the wealthy.
President Obama plans to convene a meeting with the top leaders in Congress on Friday at the White House, congressional aides confirmed.
Americans blame both Obama and congressional Republicans for the sequestration crisis, according to a Reuters/Ipsos online poll released on Tuesday.
Twenty-five percent of people said Republicans in Congress were responsible for sequestration, 23 percent blamed Obama and 5 percent pointed to congressional Democrats. Thirty percent said all of them were to blame.