Asylum Deal With Guatemala Deemed Unlawful By Immigration Officers

Image for article titled Asylum Deal With Guatemala Deemed Unlawful By Immigration Officers
Photo: Alfredo Estrella (Getty Images)

The immigration policies executed by the Trump administration have been, to be succinct, fucked up. That’s not even just me saying that. The people who have to execute his policies are saying it too.


The New York Times reports that a union of federal asylum workers has filed an amicus brief stating that a policy from the Trump Administration that diverts migrants to Guatemala is unlawful. The union, National CIS Council 119, represents 700 asylum and refugee officers of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The brief states that international treaty obligations are being violated as a result of having to deport migrants to a country where they will likely face prosecution. The Trump administration made a deal with Guatemala that allows the United States to deport migrants seeking asylum in the States to Guatemala. The union believes that these new rules are forcing them to violate the laws they were trained to uphold.

The Department of Homeland Security says the policy only affects those who hadn’t saught protections in Guatemala en route to the United States. They said the law was meant to encourage migrants to find protections closer to their home countries. The Department also indicated that the agreement could extend to Mexico. Should that be the case it theoretically means that a person seeking asylum from Mexico could be deported thousands of miles from their home to Guatemala. So far, over 800 Honduran and Salvadoran asylum seekers have been deported to Guatemala.

Guatemala has high levels of gang violence and a paltry asylum system. In 2018, the migration office reported that only 262 asylum requests were processed by a staff of eight. The country itself is the source of a high number of asylum seekers.

I’m not surprised that an immigration law passed by the Trump administration is awful. I’m still disappointed. It takes a lot of courage and a level of desperation to leave your home country to seek asylum. If a person has a valid fear for their safety it shouldn’t be harder for them to find asylum. This is the Trump administration we’re talking about, though. Doing things in a sensible and humane way has never been their m.o.



The only bright spot so far is this:

A federal judge in Washington DC ruled Sunday (March 1, 2020) that Ken Cuccinelli, the head of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, had not been lawfully appointed to his job and a policy directive speeding up initial screenings of immigrants seeking asylum during his tenure should be voided.