The majority of the nearly 400 asylum seekers that are being deported back to Guatemala under the Trump administration’s controversial deal with the country are women and children.
U.S. immigration officials have denied the opportunity to seek asylum of 378 migrants from Honduras and El Salvador as of Tuesday of this week, forcing them to pick to go home to the countries from which they are fleeing or seek refuge in Guatemala. According to numbers provided by the Guatemalan government, the deported include 144 children, 136 women and 98 men.
Unaccompanied minors are the exception under the agreement between the United States and Guatemala, signifying that the deported children to Guatemala are traveling with at least one parent. Precise numbers of families are, however, unclear and not provided by the U.S. government.
The agreement started to be enforced last November, and the deal is one of three “Asylum Cooperative Agreements” the U.S. attempted to establish in northern Central America and the only agreement to have taken effect. The agreement says that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials can deny migrants the opportunity to seek protection at the border of U.S. and Mexico. Migrants must prove that they will more likely than not face persecution in Guatemala; if they are unable to do so, they are deported within days.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others have filed a lawsuit that seeks to cease implementation of the agreement. The agreement has also faced heavy criticism from immigration advocates who point to Guatemala’s own difficulties with migration due to poverty and violence. There are worries that Guatemala will be unable to deal with the sheer number of people being deported within its borders, particularly families with children.
“We’re talking about forcing people to remain in these countries where the government is unable to protect them, locking them there and throwing away the key,” said Ursela Ojeda, a migrant rights and justice policy adviser at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “It is unprecedented in the sense that the idea that we would consider these countries safe is laughable. People will suffer and people will die.”
Sources: CBS News, 2/4/20; Vox, 11/20/19