The United States and El Salvador on Friday agreed to attempt to reduce the flow of migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border by strengthening El Salvador’s capacity to provide for asylum seekers but did not detail any concrete actions.
“The core of this is recognizing El Salvador’s development of their own asylum system and committing to help them build that capacity,” Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told reporters in Washington after signing documents with El Salvador’s minister of foreign affairs, Alexandra Hill, according to Reuters.
“Individuals crossing through El Salvador should be able to seek protections” in the Central American country even if they were intending to apply for asylum in the United States, he added.
Neither official said when the arrangement would take effect or provide details on how it would be administered. It was unclear how such a deal would work, given that most migrants from other countries take routes that avoid crossing the small, poverty-stricken El Salvador.
“We are going to work out operational details. This is just a broad agreement,” Hill told Reuters upon leaving the signing ceremony.
The agreement represents the latest effort by McAleenan to seal immigration deals with the Northern Triangle countries of Central America (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) from where many immigrants arriving at the US southern border set out.
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United States President Donald Trump has made immigration enforcement a centrepiece of his administration and is pushing to staunch the flow of migrants many of them families crossing into the United States. Border crossings reached record highs earlier this year, frustrating Trump.
Guatemala has signed a so-called ‘safe third country’ deal with the United States that requires asylum seekers who travel through Guatemala on the way to the US-Mexico border to ask for refuge in Guatemala first, instead of in the United States. The Guatemalan Congress, however, has not ratified the deal.
The United States has a similar safe third country agreement with Canada.
Honduras, meanwhile, held talks with the United States over migration this week that will continue into next, Honduras’ foreign ministry and the US Embassy said in a joint statement on Friday.