US President-elect Joe Biden should immediately revoke deals the Trump administration struck with Central American countries on the handling of asylum seekers, a report published Monday by Democratic senators said.
In 2019, the US signed Asylum Cooperation Agreements (ACAs) with the members of the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America — El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala — as part of its policy to stem the flow of undocumented immigrants across its southern border.
The ACAs allow foreign migrants who request asylum at the US border — the majority fleeing violence and poverty — to be sent to await the outcome of their application in those Central American nations.
“The Trump administration views the ACAs as a model to be replicated with other countries around the world,” said the document written by the Democratic staff of the Foreign Relations Committee and commissioned by incoming Committee Chairman Bob Menendez.
“This is precisely the opposite of what needs to happen.”
Biden, who will be inaugurated on Wednesday, has promised “a fair and humane immigration system” and has pledged aid to tackle the root causes of poverty and violence that drive Central Americans to the US.
The report said that since the implementation of the first ACA more than a year ago, none of the 945 asylum seekers transferred from the US to Guatemala have managed to receive asylum.
It cited “degrading” treatment of asylum seekers transferred from the US to Guatemala under the agreement, and said they were “effectively coerced to return to their home countries of Honduras or El Salvador, where many feared persecution and harm.”
The report urged the rapid suspension of the pacts, to “restore our leadership in upholding the right to seek asylum and in protecting refugees.”
“Congress and the Administration must renew our commitment to the protection of refugees and asylum seekers in the post-Trump era,” said Menendez, who called the ACAs “disastrous” and “shameful”.
The report also accused the White House and Trump’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of using “coercive tactics” to force the governments of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to sign the agreements.
The Trump administration resumed suspended financial assistance for the Northern Triangle countries after sealing the pacts.