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The Asylum Process is a ‘Shell Game’ For the Trump Administration

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Yesterday, Hamed Aleaziz of BuzzFeed reported on internal Trump administration documents underscoring the sheer cruelty and chaos inherent to the Trump administration’s plan to send asylum seekers from El Salvador and Honduras to Guatemala. The piece, “The Trump Administration Will Deport People Seeking Asylum In The US To Guatemala Without Them Seeing A Lawyer First,” is the latest reminder that asylum seekers are being forced into a shell game where you are moved to other countries and restricted from fair access and real due process at every turn.

…immigrants have no access to legal counsel — unlike their initial asylum screening, when they first arrive at the US border. The asylum-seeker must explicitly state that they fear persecution or torture in Guatemala in order to have an opportunity to avoid deportation, the email said. They must prove it is “more likely than not” that they will be persecuted or tortured there.

…“When you combine these restrictive policies, it appears that virtually no one crossing our border will qualify for asylum, except in exceptional circumstances,” Knowles said, noting how the administration plans to also implement similar deals with El Salvador and Honduras. “It’s like a virtual wall.”

This next step in tearing the asylum process apart piece by piece — without Congress rewriting laws — is this deceptive and deceitful process of shuffling migrants around between Central American countries. The intention is to make it absolutely impossible to flee persecution and violence and safely make asylum claims in accordance with U.S. law. Migrants, as they reach the U.S., are being turned away and sent to Mexico or sent to other dangerous countries. If you are among the thousands of migrants fleeing violence in Honduras or El Salvador, U.S. asylum officers will just send you back to Guatemala — where violence is also rampant — and the same goes for Guatemalan migrants, who may end up in Honduras or El Salvador. 

The Guatemalan bishops’ migrant ministry also weighed in this week on the plans, noting:

It’s undeniable, the interest, the pressure and threats of the United States president so that countries in the region turn into safe third countries. We remind people that we are the most violent region which is not at war … [the remote region where asylum seekers are possibly to be sent] does not have the ability nor the infrastructure at this time to welcome, protect and integrate asylum-seekers and refugees. 

According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice: “The Trump administration has set up a shell game moving desperate migrants from country to country in order to make it nearly impossible for valid appeals for asylum to reach a U.S. court. Trump and his Republican supporters in Congress have abdicated their moral leadership; they’re ensuring at every turn that vulnerable asylum seekers have little access to a fair hearing, no access to a lawyer, and no protections or plans in place to provide safety and security in the countries to which they’re being sent. The laws in place are set up to help people in need and those fleeing persecution and violence, but the law as it was intended is being thwarted in every way possible in order to keep vulnerable migrants out. Piece by piece Trump, his white nationalist aide Stephen Miller and their Republican allies continue to demolish the process that has saved many migrants — and right in front of Congress’ eyes no less.”