In late May 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Minister met with the director of the Guatemalan Migration Institute (IGM), who requested a “five-year freeze” on readmission for people transferred from the United States to Guatemala (or transfers) as part of a possible agreement, likely to deter transfers from returning to the United States. [22] Last year, tens of thousands of asylum seekers left Guatemala en route to the United States or transited through Guatemala. In mid-June 2019, when the Trump administration publicly announced negotiations on the U.S.-Guatemala deal, it was aware (according to an assessment by the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala) that Guatemala was “one of the most dangerous countries in the world” and that the very rudimentary asylum system was a few hundred behind. [23] The Wall Street Journal quoted a former Guatemalan official who said the U.S. had sent 158 Salvadoran and Honduran asylum seekers to Guatemala since the agreement was signed until Tuesday. The United States also plans to send migrants of other nationalities to Guatemala in the future, according to reports. Under the “safe third country” agreement, migrants must apply for asylum in the first country where they land. If they do not and they go to the second country, they can be sent back to the first country. Safe third country agreements have been put in place to share responsibility for assisting asylum seekers and ensuring that they are safe and protected from the damage they flee. The Trump administration`s repeated attacks on the legal immigration system — as well as the president`s hateful rhetoric toward asylum seekers — show that this government does not recognize or want to assume its responsibility to protect asylum seekers. Like Freddie G., several returnees had immediate relatives who lived in the United States and pursued asylum procedures based on the same fears as transfers to Guatemala, undersuing how the ACA contributes to family separation.

In contrast, under the U.S.-Canada Safe Third Country Agreement, an asylum seeker who even has a distant relative (aunt or uncle, grandparent, nephew or niece) awaiting asylum in the U.S. is exempt from transfer and can apply for asylum in the U.S. [132] Prior to the suspension of the ACA, March 16, 27, 2020, local non-governmental partners at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) interviewed some of those transferred under the ACA and found that about two-thirds of those interviewed were concerned about international protection. [5] However, only a small portion of those who expressed fear of returning to their country of origin applied for asylum in Guatemala, UNHCR said. . . .

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