The Trump administration is set to begin deporting Mexican asylum seekers to Guatemala, marking the latest initiative to help manage the immigration crisis at the U.S. southern border.
An asylum agreement signed between the Trump administration and the Guatemalan government is expanding to include Mexican nationals, according to internal United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) documents reviewed by Reuters. Agency staffers, according to a recent email directive, have been informed that Mexican citizens will be included in the populations subject to the Guatemalan asylum deal.
The Trump administration inked an asylum deal with Guatemala’s outgoing government in July, and it began to be implemented in November. Under the agreement, migrants who apply for asylum at the U.S. southern border can be relocated to Guatemala in order to seek protected status there. So far, very few migrants deported to Guatemala have opted to stay, choosing instead to go back to their home countries.
This bilateral deal was initially intended for Central American migrants. However, the Trump administration has since been forced to deal with changing demographics at the southern border.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced in November that, for the first time in roughly 18 months, the majority of those apprehended by Border Patrol were Mexican nationals. This shift has presented new problems for authorities who have been dealing with an immigration crisis primarily made up of Central American families. The administration has, in turn, begun implementing measures to deal with the rise of Mexican illegal aliens.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in conjunction with the Mexican government, announced in December the relaunch of the Interior Repatriation Initiative. Under the initiative, Mexican nationals who have been ordered to be removed are no longer deported right across the southern border, but much deeper into the interior of Mexico — making illegal reentry into the U.S. more difficult.
Speculation over whether the U.S. would begin deporting Mexicans asylum seekers all the way to Guatemala has circulated for days, with acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli stating publicly that the option was being considered.
“The United States and the Government of Guatemala are working closely together to continue implementation of the Asylum Cooperative Agreement,” Cuccinelli tweeted in December. “As we fully implement the agreement, all populations are being considered, including Mexican nationals.”
Mexican migrants protested near Tijuana government offices in late December upon news that the U.S. government was considering sending them to Guatemala if they crossed the border.
The asylum agreement with Guatemala applies to single adults and families from Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras who entered the U.S. after Nov. 19. Unaccompanied minors are not subject for deportation to Guatemala, and other exceptions are made for migrants who can definitively prove that they would be persecuted or tortured if they are sent to the tiny Central American county.
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