The Trump administration knows that its new rule sending asylum-seekers from El Salvador and Honduras to Guatemala is deadly. It has stated as much in guidance reportedly distributed to asylum officers tasked with implementing this inhumane plan.
BuzzFeed News reports that materials given to officers by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials included “information on pervasive violence against women in the country, killings of indigenous activists, prevalence of the notorious gang MS-13, and a link to a research paper that states ‘a culture of violence and impunity pervades all of Guatemalan society today.’”
Another portion of the materials stated, “Violence and extortion by powerful criminal organizations remain serious problems in Guatemala. Gang-related violence is an important factor prompting people, including unaccompanied youth, to leave the country.” This is not a safe region for already-vulnerable people fleeing violence and persecution, something acknowledged by human rights groups, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, and Guatemalan officials themselves.
The Trump administration knows this too, as the materials make clear. Yet, “We are being asked to violate human rights," one asylum officer told BuzzFeed. That asylum officer is not alone. Doug Stephens quit rather than help implement the Remain in Mexico policy, saying that it’s “literally sending people back to be raped and killed.” During a House hearing this week, Michael Knowles, also a longtime asylum officer and president of a union representing thousands of USCIS employees, also condemned the policy.
“’I don’t know a single asylum officer in the country who believes this is a good policy,’ he said of MPP, also known as ‘Remain in Mexico,’” Roll Call reported. “Carrying out the policy against migrants who asylum officers have assessed to have legitimate claims ‘leaves them feeling like they are complicit in human rights abuses,’ he said.”
On Thursday, a Honduran man became the first person to be sent to Guatemala under the new plan. “He appeared to be the only migrant on the flight and was taken to a shelter after being processed,” CNN reported. But as we noted before, Remain in Mexico’s first day also began with a trickle, when one asylum-seeker was sent to Tijuana to wait out his case. Nearly one year later, that number has skyrocketed to 60,000.