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The following is a statement from Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice, in response to the news that the Trump administration signed an agreement with the government of El Salvador to explore asylum changes that could keep asylum seekers from other countries in El Salvador and which may lead to a future “safe third country” agreement with El Salvador:
Pretending that El Salvador could be designated a ‘safe third country’ makes a mockery of the term and is another indication of how the Trump administration is attempting to outsource its cruelty, gut the asylum process, and ignore the reality of why people are forced to migrate in the first place.
The U.S. State Department warns U.S. citizens against traveling to El Salvador because of violent crime rates. According to the State Department’s human rights report on the Central American country, extrajudicial killings, ‘torture by security forces,” and systemic violence against children, women, LGBTQ and other vulnerable populations are ‘infrequently addressed by the authorities.’
The goal of the Trump administration’s agreement with El Salvador is to continue Trump’s politically motivated ‘keep ’em out’ strategy. It is aimed at making sure asylum seekers and their stories are never heard in U.S. courts, regardless of how compelling those individual stories may be. U.S. law requires specialized government officials to hear and evaluate those stories, but this and dozens of other unilateral changes aimed at keeping asylum seekers from getting a fair chance are at direct odds with America’s best traditions and values as a beacon of hope for asylum seekers.
With hundreds of thousands of El Salvadorans in danger of losing Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the U.S. and potentially facing deportation to their country of origin, the flood of asylum cases that could be headed El Salvador’s way and the flood of new U.S. deportees could create a dangerously destabilizing series of events that could further spur migration towards the U.S. Already, thousands of asylum seekers from El Salvador have reached the U.S. and many are already caught in the Trump administration’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, being stockpiled at the U.S.-Mexico border awaiting adjudication in a U.S. court, if they are lucky. This just adds a new layer of uncertainty and chaos.
Today’s news is the disturbing capstone to a week in which the toll of the Trump’s team’s asylum and border policies has been on full display – from deaths in the Rio Grande due to ‘Remain in Mexico’ to the kangaroo tent courts along the border to the ongoing separation of families to decrepit and dangerous detention conditions. The Trump administration’s asylum policies and sham processes are endangering lives and exacerbating a human rights crisis Trump and his team helped spark.