President Trump said last week that he would cut off aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the home countries of most of the migrants arriving at the United States’ southern border to seek asylum.

The Trump administration has already taken the first step to act on the president’s directive, notifying Congress that it wanted to divert the $450 million allocated to the region. By Monday, though, the administration had not offered details about whether any aid — such as military aid or support to combat drug trafficking — might be exempt from the order.

If the aid withdrawal does go ahead, aid advocates say, it would probably affect the region’s most vulnerable people, including small farmers struggling to adapt to climate change and teenagers pressured to join gangs in a region that is a major drug transit route, according to State Department estimates. Advocates say that, should these threats to lives and livelihoods grow, many more people will take their chances on the road and leave for the United States.

The decision to end aid is likely to provoke anger in Congress, where lawmakers in both parties have supported efforts to address the root causes of migration. If the money is ultimately withheld, it would affect a wide range of programs designed to improve citizen security, promote economic development and encourage accountable government.

Mr. Trump has complained that the governments of the three countries have done too little to halt immigration, and portrayed the withdrawal of aid as punishment for their leaders.

A vast majority of the aid, however, goes to nongovernmental organizations, churches, charities and private contractors that carry out projects for the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development. According to the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights research group, the largest portion of aid has gone to improving security and justice systems, and to preventing violence.

Aid varies from country to country to address their different needs. In El Salvador, where the United States has helped support a broad antiviolence program, 57 percent of the $149 million in aid allocated in 2017 went to projects intended to prevent violence, improve security and community policing, and train judges, prosecutors and public defenders.

In Honduras, where aid reached almost $182 million in 2017, the highest percentage of funds — some 44 percent — went to support programs that improved justice and security, with an additional 30 percent allocated for antipoverty programs among the country’s rural poor.

The aid also supports anticorruption measures by providing funds for international prosecutors who have been investigating graft in Honduras and Guatemala, and a special anticorruption unit in the Salvadoran attorney general’s office. In advance of Guatemala’s elections in June, the United States has also helped finance the country’s electoral agency.

The United States also supported border security and efforts to combat drug trafficking, though those funds accounted for a smaller percentage of the overall aid. The Pentagon set aside millions to improve drug interdiction and to supply equipment and training to counter trafficking in Honduras.

In Guatemala, poverty, rather than violence, is the main driver of migration. More than half of the $178 million in 2017 aid went to programs to alleviate poverty, particularly in the country’s western highlands, where many children suffer from chronic malnutrition.

Economic aid is the next largest block of American support in Central America, after security and related programs. The funds support small businesses in Guatemala, schools in Honduras and job training for at-risk youth in El Salvador, among other projects. Some of the programs are broader, such as an effort to bring down high power costs by connecting electrical grids and financing new infrastructure.

In 2017, $18 million was allocated to help farmers in Honduras diversify their crops and improve productivity, to reduce extreme hunger and poverty; and $14.5 million to help small-business owners, including funds to help create a sustainable system for cacao production.

In Guatemala that year, more than $10 million was designated to help communities adapt to climate change’s effects — such as increased drought and coffee-destroying fungus — and $6.3 million to help the Health Ministry prevent maternal and infant deaths, and prevent H.I.V. infections.

Until a large wave of unaccompanied minors from Central America arrived at the Texas border in 2014, American aid to the region focused on economic growth and law enforcement. But the surge of child migrants, which was in part spurred by the high murder rates in the Northern Triangle, prompted the Obama administration to request more money from Congress for a broader approach to the region.

As a result, aid increased to $750 million in 2016 before beginning to drop under the Trump administration. Over all, Congress allocated almost $2.1 billion to Central America from 2016 to 2018, most of it for the Northern Triangle countries, though agencies have been slow to spend all the money.

Murder rates have fallen in all three countries but poverty remains as entrenched as ever — and it remains difficult to assess how effective the aid has been, particularly over such a short period. Advocates argue that programs need years to take effect.

The Trump administration has also redirected its emphasis toward security and away from the focus on ethical governance. That shift has taken pressure off Central American governments to become more accountable, and both the Guatemalan and Honduran governments have recently pushed back against anticorruption efforts.

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