Trump Administration Plans To Send Some Mexican Asylum-Seekers To Guatemala And Mexico Is Fighting Back
The Trump Administration continues to ramp up its attack on asylum seekers – and Mexican asylum-seekers in particular. The Department of Homeland Security announced that ‘effective immediately’, Mexicans could be subject to a safe third country agreement that could see them deported even further away to Guatemala.
The policy in effect blocks Mexicans — and any asylum seeker arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border who is not Guatemalan — from seeking protection in the United States, sending them more than 1,000 miles south instead.
The United States has yet to expel any Mexican asylum seekers to Guatemala, but the new U.S. policy could soon affect about 900 Mexican asylum seekers, the Mexican Foreign Secretariat said in a statement late Monday signaling its “disagreement.”
The Department of Homeland Security confirms that certain Mexicans seeking humanitarian protection can be transferred to the Central American nation.
The U.S. will begin sending Mexican asylum-seekers to Guatemala to wait out their cases instead of allowing them to remain in the U.S., according to documents obtained by BuzzFeed News.
“Certain Mexicans seeking humanitarian protections in the United States may now be eligible to be transferred to Guatemala and given the opportunity to seek protection there, under the terms of the Guatemala Asylum Cooperative Agreement,” a spokesperson for the agency said in a statement to NBC News.
Under the safe third country agreement between the US and Guatemala, technically the move is likely legal – though is it ethical?
The agreement, which was brokered in July between the Trump administration and the outgoing Guatemalan government, allows U.S. immigration officials to send migrants requesting asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border to apply for protection in Guatemala, instead.
The administration made similar deals with Honduras and El Salvador last year.
The Trump administration had previously implemented a “remain in Mexico” policy for asylum-seekers from Central America, but international law forbidsasylum-seekers from being sent back to their home country due to concerns they may face prosecution. Mexicans account for more than half of the estimated 21,000 asylum seekers waiting along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Is Guatemala really a safer, more stable option for people seeking asylum from poverty and violence?
Critics of the agreements have said migrants could be further endangered if they are sent to violence-plagued Central American countries, while others with valid asylum claims could be keep out.
They have also said the countries do not have the capacity in their asylum systems to take on the migrants’ claims.
An anonymous asylum officials told Buzzfeed news: “Mexico is dangerous; Guatemala is even more so. This expansion of the [agreement] continues to prevent legitimate asylum-seekers from having their cases heard by the US and foists them upon the Guatemalan system, which has about a dozen staff. Asylum in the US is now practically available only for people wealthy and privileged enough to get visas, shutting out many of the most vulnerable groups asking for help at our borders.”
Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said Monday night it disagreed with the policy.
Mexico is voicing opposition to the Trump administration’s controversial plan to send Mexicans seeking asylum in the United States to Guatemala instead.
“It’s a decision that worries us and a decision that we cannot agree with,” the Mexican ambassador to the United States, Martha Barcena, said Tuesday. “This decision was not consulted with us. It is a decision they made with Guatemala.”
The new U.S. policy could soon affect about 900 Mexican asylum seekers, the Mexican Foreign Secretariat said in a statement late Monday signaling its “disagreement.”
Mexican authorities “will work to offer better options to the Mexicans who could be affected,” the statement said, without providing details.
There also appeared to be confusion over the policy in Guatemala. Alejandra Mena, a spokeswoman with the government’s immigration institute, said that while there have been “conversations on the issue” of Mexican asylum seekers, the “agreement involves the transfer of Hondurans and Salvadorans only.”