According to reporting from Buzzfeed News, an LGBT asylum seeker was recently sent to Guatemala as part of President Trump’s new so-called “Safe Third Country” program. This took place despite the fact that Guatemala—a country that is dealing with considerable levels of poverty and violence—is essentially just as dangerous as Honduras and El Salvador. Here, our Los Angeles asylum attorney provides an overview of this disheartening story and explains how the “Safe Third Country” program works.
The Asylum Seekers Endured Hate-Based Abuse in El Salvador
One of the men profiled by BuzzFeed News is referred to by the pseudonym ‘Pablo’. He is a 23-year-old gay man originally from El Salvador. Similar to many other LGBT migrants, Pablo fled his native country after facing hate-based abuse. In December, he arrived in Texas to seek asylum in the United States.
Unfortunately, he was not aware of the fact that the Trump Administration has recently signed and started to implement its “Safe Third Country” agreement with Guatemala, the Central American country that borders El Salvador to the north. Pablo tried to explain to the border patrol agent that he had already been through Guatemala and that he had faced hate-based abuse in that country as well. It was to no avail. He was sent directly to Guatemala, where he quickly fled again for Mexico.
The Trump Administration’s “Safe Third Country” Program: Explained
The United States signed its first ‘Safe Third Country’ agreement with Canada. Under such an agreement, migrants are required to seek asylum in the first safe country that they arrive in. For example, if an asylum seeker arrives in Canada, they must apply for protection in Canada before applying in the United States—the reverse is also true.
While the U.S.-Canadian system can be defended, the Trump Administration has dramatically expanded the use of these agreements in wholly unjustifiable ways. In November of 2019, the Administration began deporting Central American asylum seekers to Guatemala pursuant to a bilateral safe third country agreement. By no reasonable standard is Guatemala a safe country—particularly for vulnerable LGBT migrants. As explained by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the Trump Administration is putting the health and safety of innocent people at risk.
ACLU Lawsuit: Restrict the Use of “Safe Third Country” Agreements
Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s authority to use third country agreements, particularly as it pertains to Guatemala. Pablo, the LGBT asylum seeker mentioned above, is the lead plaintiff in the case. As the civil rights organization argues, the Trump Administration is trying to use these agreements as a tool to block asylum seekers.
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