President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday issued a new rule allowing the deportation of migrants who are seeking asylum at the U.S. border to Guatemala, Vox reports.
The U.S. signed the agreement with Guatemala earlier this year, under the leadership of former Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan, and made similar deals with El Salvador and Honduras.
Once the new rule takes effect next month, immigrants at legal ports of entry and immigrants who try to enter the U.S. without approval must pass a new screening process. For instance, immigrants from Honduras and El Salvador would be asked if they tried to get protections from Guatemala before coming to the U.S., and will be sent to Guatemala if they don’t.
Vox notes that the agreements are similar to the rarely-used “safe third country agreements,” which require that migrants apply for asylum in the countries they pass through if those countries have been found capable of offering protection. The only country the U.S. had this kind of agreement with, prior to recent events, is Canada.
The administration plans to send a relatively small number of migrants to Guatemala initially, as a test of the policy, and the United Nations will work within Guatemala to help the country receive migrants.
The immigrant advocacy group the Tahirih Justice Center said Monday that it plans to challenge the rule.
“The rule flatly violates federal law and makes a mockery of our national obligation not to return asylum seekers to violence and persecution,” Richard Calderone, the center’s litigation counsel, told Vox in a statement. “And if fully implemented, it will effectively end asylum and related protections in the United States for everyone except unaccompanied children.”
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