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Trump Plan to Send Mexican Asylum Seekers from The Border to Guatemala is Latest Cruel and Chaotic Effort to Gut Asylum Under U.S. Law

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The Trump Administration’s plan to send Mexican asylum-seekers to Guatemala is being widely condemned as the latest cruel and chaotic effort to deny due process and a fair chance at asylum for vulnerable people. 

The plan for Mexican asylum-seekers mirrors the situation for Central American asylum seekers, who through such policies as MPP and the Orwellian-named “safe third country” agreements are being denied access to a fair and timely chance to plead their case and now are being shuttled throughout the region in a massive shell game. 

Read below for reminders of what’s at stake and why the latest plan is both cruel and chaotic:

In the Los Angeles Times, Patrick McDonnell and Molly O’Toole write how the U.S. is attempting to move forward with the plan to send Mexicans seeking asylum in the U.S. to Guatemala, despite opposition from the Mexican government and the complete inability and lack of infrastructure in Guatemala to provide safety, resources, and a fair chance at asylum:

Mexico is voicing opposition to the Trump administration’s controversial plan to send Mexicans seeking asylum in the United States to Guatemala instead. ‘It’s a decision that worries us and a decision that we cannot agree with,’ the Mexican ambassador to the United States, Martha Barcena, said Tuesday. ‘This decision was not consulted with us. It is a decision they made with Guatemala.’

According to internal U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services documents obtained by The Times, the Trump administration holds that Mexicans are not excluded from an agreement it reached in July for Guatemala to take asylum seekers who are not Guatemalan.

…Guatemala, as well as its Central American neighbors, has negligible infrastructure to handle asylum applications — despite assurances issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that the acting secretary of Homeland Security and the attorney general have certified that asylum seekers returned to Guatemala under the agreement “would have access to a full and fair procedure for determining their claims for protection.”

Meanwhile, a disturbing Reuters story captures the first-person fears and stories of Mexican asylum seekers, making clear that the forced removal to Guatemala would endanger lives. Among the key excerpts in the Reuters piece titled “’Into the lion’s den’: Mexican asylum seekers fear deportation to Guatemala,” include:

Mexicans who say their homes are unsafe due to drug gang extortion said the policy leaves them few options.

“I can’t go home, they’ve already kidnapped my brother and son,” said Carlos, a Mexican seeking to reach the United States via the border city of Tijuana. He said he had fled criminal gangs in the southwestern state of Guerrero.

“They’re after me. If I go back they’re sure to kill me. If I’m not safe in Mexico, I’ll be even less safe in Guatemala,” he said, requesting his last name be withheld for security reasons.

…Guatemala, however, is poorer and dangerous, and Mexicans generally have fewer contacts there than in the United States.

Eugenio, 48, arrived in the border city of Ciudad Juarez with his family four months ago and has been on a waiting list for the chance to present his case to U.S. officials ever since. He estimated his turn will come up later this week and the prospect of being sent to Guatemala was high on his mind.

“Going to Guatemala is like walking straight into the lion’s den,” Eugenio said, explaining he feared that the criminals he said had threatened his family in central Mexico could track him down across the fluid southern border.

…Sitting in a chilly camp in Ciudad Juarez, one woman from the state of Zacatecas, who declined to give her name, said she was trying to reach the United States because she had family there, and would be safe.

“I’m not going because of the American dream, I’m going and taking my kids because we need security, we need safety,” she said in tears, describing how she had fled a job as a scientist in a laboratory after she starting being followed and receiving phone threats.”

For a more in-depth look at the details and implications of the Trump Administration’s ongoing efforts to restrict due process and a fair chance for asylum seekers, read the recent DHS Watch analysis from Ur Jaddou, “No Break for Growing Humanitarian Crisis and Violence Against Asylum Seekers at Southern Border Due to Trump Policies.”