A coalition of national civil, immigration, and human rights organizations have sued the Trump administration over a cruel and inhumane policy deporting asylum-seekers from Honduras and El Salvador to Guatemala under a so-called safe-third-country agreement, calling it “a deadly game of musical chairs that leaves desperate refugees without a safe haven, in violation of U.S. and international law.”
In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union, National Immigrant Justice Center, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, and Human Rights First say that “The policies block asylum seekers from ever receiving a chance at asylum in the U.S. They are instead being sent to Guatemala … these countries are plagued by epidemic violence, instability, and ill-equipped asylum systems.” Officials have gone forward with this policy knowing they’re deporting vulnerable people, including children, back to danger.
Among them are mom M.H. and her child, who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “Her common-law husband and her sister-in-law worked in the transportation business in Honduras and were forced to pay local gangs in order to work. They were both murdered,” the groups said. Terrified for their lives, M.H. and her child fled to the U.S., only to be deported to Guatemala. “Feeling that she had no means to remain safe or support herself in Guatemala,” the lawsuit says, “M.H. and her daughter returned temporarily to Honduras. M.H. remains uncertain how or where she and her daughter can find safety.”
Only five of the nearly 150 Honduran and Salvadoran asylum-seekers deported to Guatemala have opted to stay to try to access its bare-bones asylum system, The Washington Post reports. The administration had further sought to expand the policy by also deporting Mexican asylum-seekers there, but that move has, thankfully, stalled for now. It needs to stop for all asylum-seekers. “People have the legal right to apply for asylum in the U.S. unless they can be sent to another safe country via a valid agreement. However, the country must first provide ‘access to a full and fair procedure for determining a claim to asylum’ in order to qualify as safe. These countries fail to meet that standard,” the groups continue in the statement.
“The Trump administration wants to return the persecuted to their persecutors rather than allow these vulnerable people to seek asylum in our country, the land of immigrants. Not only does this violate the law, it is wrong,” said Hardy Vieux of Human Rights First. “There is nothing great about a country that betrays its values in the name of stoking fear and demonizing the innocent. We are taking the administration to court because, politics aside, the law still stands for fairness and justice in our country. Most of us know this; some of us need reminding."