Northern Triangle of Central America signs agreement with the US to receive asylum seekers
On December 29, 2020, after more than a year of planning, the US and the countries of the Northern Triangle of Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras) signed the so-called “Asylum Cooperation Agreements” (ACA), which went into effect immediately.
Broadly speaking, these agreements allow the US to send asylum seekers, who must meet certain eligibility criteria, to these three countries in order for them to request international protection there.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stated that, during fiscal year 2019, more than 71% of foreigners detained while trying to cross the borders of the US without legal documentation came from these three nations and that, with ACA, the country will be able to curb “illegal migration at the source.”
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Background – The Trump administration’s agreements with third countries
During the past four years, the current administration of the US has tried to reduce immigration at all costs, using federal entities such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as tools, building a border wall that separates to the US of Mexico, increasing restrictions and requirements in immigration processes, massively deporting undocumented immigrants (in many cases unaccompanied minors) and pressuring state governments to cooperate with border agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Thus, the Trump administration has tried to curb not only illegal immigration, but also legal processes, including humanitarian programs available to the most vulnerable immigrant communities such as asylum seekers or refugees. It is important to clarify that these humanitarian alternatives are normally offered to immigrants who try to flee from precarious situations such as violence, persecution, war, famine, inter alia.
However, despite the fact that the US has the necessary resources to protect these communities, the Trump administration states that asylum seekers “abuse and take advantage” of the current immigration system, the economy, the health system, and they become an unnecessary burden on the country, using “persecution stories” that, in his opinion, are not always real.
To achieve the goal of reducing the number of asylum seekers entering the US annually, the Trump administration devised a strategy to create “Asylum Cooperation Agreements” with third countries and be able to send immigrants there, mainly those who need international protection.
The Trump administration’s ideal of expanding political asylum agreements
In October 2020, several government officials stated that if President Trump were to win a second term, his cabinet would try to expand ACA over the next four years to reduce the number of asylees in the US.
However, the American population elected Democratic nominee Joe Biden as the nation’s next president, who will take office in January, 2021. The fact that President Trump expanded ACA before leaving office caught the attention of activists and immigrant rights advocates, who state that the current administration is using every tool at its disposal to further limit and restrict immigration before Biden takes office.
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