Human Rights First Statement on New Trump Administration “Rule” to Send Asylum Seekers to Guatemala, Other Countries

WASHINGTON — Human Rights First (HRF) Refugee Protection Director Eleanor Acer released the following statement in response to the Trump administration’s new interim final rule aimed at sending refugees seeking asylum at the U.S. border to Guatemala or other countries with which the U.S. has entered into “Asylum Cooperative Agreements.” The rule is slated to be issued tomorrow.

“This rule is yet another Trump administration effort to evade U.S. asylum law and deliver refugees to places where their lives will be in danger. Recent reports indicate the administration plans to send asylum seekers to Guatemala imminently. But refugees returned to Guatemala will be targets of violence, trafficking and other forms of persecution. It is both dangerous and disingenuous to pretend that Guatemala will protect refugees from other countries from harm when it is currently failing and refusing to protect its own citizens, thousands of whom have already fled the country due to lack of protections. The other countries the Trump administration has pressured to sign “Asylum Cooperative Agreements” – Honduras and El Salvador – are also not safe for refugees.

“Rather than upholding U.S. asylum law, this rule attempts an end-run around provisions of law that make clear that a country must meet certain requirements to be treated as a “safe third country” for refugee returns.  Not only is Guatemala not capable of protecting refugees from returning to persecution, but many refugees will face acute risks there.  Once again, the Trump administration is imposing an unduly high screening standard – and what will no doubt be another sham interview process – on refugees seeking U.S. protection. Once again, the result will be that the U.S. will send people seeking refuge in places where their lives are at risk.

“The bottom line is that the Trump administration will use the new rule and its sketchy asylum deals to deliver refugees to highly dangerous places and block them from actual protection. Blocked from asylum in the United States, refugees will be left with the impossible choice of staying in a country where their lives are at risk or returning to their home countries, where their lives are also at risk. This policy isn’t only inhumane; it’s un-American.”

In addition to the statement, HRF previously issued this backgrounder on why Guatemala is not safe, and this blog post that explains many of the flaws in the agreement with Guatemala. For more information, or to speak with Acer for interview, contact Human Rights First at [email protected].


Published on November 18, 2019


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