Project Description

No Asylum Cooperative Agreements with Central America

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In July 2019, the Guatemalan Interior Minister and the acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security signed an Asylum Cooperative Agreement (ACA), also known as a “safe third country agreement.” This signing came after the Guatemalan Constitutional Court ordered former President Morales not to sign the agreement without congressional approval. After Trump threatened to ban Guatemalans with lawful U.S. visas and to tax remittances, Morales sent his Interior Minister to sign. In the following weeks, El Salvador and Honduras signed similar agreements.

The ACAs give the U.S. power to transfer asylum-seekers to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador if the transferee is not from the country to which they are sent. The supposed idea is that asylum-seekers should seek asylum in one of these three countries, despite their complete lack of capacity to responsibly process asylum cases and  their general unsafe conditions. By deporting asylum-seekers to countries they are not from and to places where they may face danger, the U.S. denies them protection and violates international refugee law.

“People flee Guatemala due to the violent imposition of resource extraction without consultation. Now, the state wants to deport asylum-seekers to Indigenous territory without consultation. The state does not care for Guatemalans, how will it care for migrants that the U.S. wants to throw away?”

Rubén Herrera, Departmental Assembly of Peoples of Huehuetenango (ADH)

Three hundred community members organized by the ADH took over the Mesiilla check point on the Guatemala-Mexico border on August 9, protesting the

Three hundred community members organized by the ADH took over the Mesiilla check point on the Guatemala-Mexico border on August 9, protesting the “safe third country” agreement, systemic impunity & the invasion of their territorries by extractive industry. Photo credit: Departamental Assembly of Peoples of Huehuetenango (ADH)

READ OUR FULL REPORT ON THE ACAS

Due to the pandemic, on March 17th the Guatemalan government announced a temporary suspension of the ACAs. This suspension has not terminated the agreements with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, and transfers are scheduled to resume as soon as “sanitary protocols are established.” At the same time, similar human rights violations have continued through ongoing standard deportations of migrants and expulsions of asylum-seekers under DHS’s implementation of the CDC border rule. Between March and October 2020, 63,000 people were deported and 140,000 asylum-seekers were expelled, mostly to Mexico or the countries from which they fled. 8,000 of the expelled asylum-seekers were unaccompanied minors. These deportations and expulsions not only violate due process and legal protections for migrants and asylum-seekers, they also are exporting COVID-19 to countries with crumbling medical infrastructures. 

To stop these inhumane and illegal ACAs, deportations, and expulsions, we need major people power. Join us!

Since July 2020, we are meeting with dozens of congressional offices to talk about the ACAs, deportations, and expulsions. We need you as constituents to support these meetings from the grassroots! Call and email your congresspeople and tell them to:

  1. Defund the agreements. The appropriations subcommittees in charge of the budgets for the State Department and Department of Homeland Security should include the following language in the Appropriations Bill: “None of these funds may be used for the implementation of the Asylum Cooperative Agreements between the U.S., Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.”
  2. Demand more information. All congresspeople and committees should demand more information about the signing and implementation of the agreements.
  3. Take a stand against the agreements. All congresspeople should declare their opposition to the agreements as a threat to safety, human dignity, and Central American sovereignty.
  4. Support the Immigration Enforcement Moratorium Act. The Act would halt deportations during the pandemic, release individuals in detention on orders of supervision, halt in person check-ins and in-person court proceedings which risk asylum seekers’ lives to travel during this pandemic to appear in court and instead allow for telephonic hearings if the asylum seeker requests it, and prohibit federal funds from implementing the CDC order which would prevent immediate expulsions of asylum seekers and unaccompanied children at our border.
CONTACT YOUR CONGRESSPEOPLE

This link will take you to CISPES’ platform from which you can contact all your representatives and senators with the click of a button. We prepped the email for you too!

EMAIL NISGUA STAFF FOR SUPPORT

Even though it shouldn’t be, reaching out to congress can be intimidating. We are here to support. This button will lead you to email info[at]nisgua.org.

Who are the most important targets for these demands?

Senate Judiciary Committee:

Senate Foreign Affairs Committee:

Letters to the editor and op-eds are important tools to educate community members and create public dialogue. With your help, we can publish in dozens of newspapers across the U.S. To learn more about letters to the editor and op-eds, check out these resources by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and Community Toolbox.

To strategize where to publish more letters to the editor or op-eds, we need to hear from you! Please let us know where you submitted and if you were published. This button will take you to email claire[at]nisgua.org.

Here is a sample letter to the editor or op-ed that you can use as a template. Please feel free to use any part of this letter that serves you. We recommend that you use this draft as a scaffolding of the facts, and that you heavily adapt it to be more attention-grabbing and relevant for your local audience. You can find out about how to submit op-eds from your local newspapers or magazines. Thank you so much for engaging with this material and for supporting our campaign in this way!


Newspaper/Magazine name

Address

Date

To the Editor:

In July of 2019, the Guatemalan Interior Minister, Enrique Degenhart, and the acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan, signed an Asylum Cooperative Agreement (ACA), also known as a “safe third country agreement.” This came about after political pressure and threats of economic sanctions from the Trump administration. The ACAs give the U.S. power to transfer asylum-seekers to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador if the transferee is not from the country to which they are sent. The supposed idea is that asylum-seekers should seek asylum in one of these three countries, despite their complete lack of capacity to responsibly process asylum cases and  their general unsafe conditions.

A few weeks later, the U.S. signed similar agreements with Honduras and El Salvador. These covert agreements are part of a larger strategy that the Trump administration uses to deny people the right to migrate and apply for asylum. By deporting asylum-seekers to countries they are not from and to places where they may face danger, the U.S. denies them protection and violates international refugee law, including Articles 13, 14, and 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The U.S. signed the ACAs despite the fact that Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras are unable to respond to the needs of their own citizens, let alone those of the thousands of asylum-seekers for whom the U.S. is legally responsible. In 2018, 62,000 Salvadorans and Hondurans sought U.S. asylum, and in 2019, the majority of migrants detained at the U.S. southern border were Guatemalan, many of whom are Indigenous. Moreover, this instability is due in large part to the destabilizing nature of U.S. foreign policy in northern Central America, which has promoted violent resource extraction, enabled mass corruption, and further militarized the region.

Additionally, the ACAs either ignore or do very little to address the fact that none of these countries have asylum systems built to address an imposed influx of asylum-seekers. Between November 2019 and March 2020, 939 migrants from Honduras and El Salvador were transferred to Guatemala under the agreement. Of these, 20 people have sought asylum there. The Guatemalan state arbitrarily gave asylum-seekers 72 hours to decide if they will seek refuge in Guatemala, a policy that effectively compels people to abandon their asylum claims.

Due to the pandemic, on March 17th the Guatemalan government announced a temporary suspension of the ACAs. This suspension has not terminated the agreements with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, and transfers are scheduled to resume as soon as “sanitary protocols are established.” At the same time, similar human rights violations have continued through ongoing standard deportations of migrants and expulsions of asylum-seekers under DHS’s implementation of the CDC border rule. Between March and October 2020, 63,000 people were deported and 140,000 asylum-seekers were expelled, mostly to Mexico or the countries from which they fled. 8,000 of the expelled asylum-seekers were unaccompanied minors. These deportations and expulsions not only violate due process and legal protections for migrants and asylum-seekers, they also are exporting COVID-19 to countries with crumbling medical infrastructures.

We must demand that Congress defund the agreements, demand more information about the signing and implementation of them, and take a stand against the agreements as a threat to safety, human dignity, and Central American sovereignty. We must also demand that they immediately stop deportations, expulsions, and detention during the pandemic. To learn more about this campaign, please visit bit.ly/nosafethird.

Sincerely,

Name

Organization

Email

Phone number

On June 10, we had the honor of coordinating a webinar “From the U.S. to Central America: Asylum, Deportations, and COVID-19” featuring five panelists from Central America and the U.S. who are experts on migration and powerful movement leaders. The panelists spoke about the illegal and inhumane Asylum Cooperative Agreements (ACAs), also known as safe third country agreements. They also discussed deportations during the pandemic, which have greatly impacted already under-resourced medical systems in the Global South.

Today, we’re thrilled to share the recording of the webinar complete with English subtitles, which are based off of the closed captions and live simultaneous interpretation that we provided in the webinar.

Graphic with thanks to the organizations that sponsored the webinar and the volunteers and staff who made it possible.

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, we decided to cancel all in-person tour stops for our spring 2020 tour. We are incredibly grateful for all the people in New Mexico, Arizona, and Los Angeles who have been organizing and planning events for the past several months.

As internationalists seeking to build solidarity across state-imposed borders, we are resourced for moments such as this, so that our learning, organizing, and action can continue. We were thrilled to hold a webinar with Silvia Raquec of Association Pop No’j on April 16.

Watch the full webinar here or on Facebook:

Graphically designed image with the biography of Silvia Raquec, the tour speaker.

A graphic with the logos of 18 organizations: NISGUA, CGRS, Association Pop No'j, LAWG, Alianza Americas, AFSC, WFP, ADH, CEJIL, IML, CISPES, Americas Program, PAQG, SOAW, Centro Legal de la Raza, IRTF, CRLN, and DJPC

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Migrants’ rights organizations deliver petition with 2000+ signatures against the Asylum Cooperative Agreements (ACAs)

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Today, a broad coalition of Central and North American organizations delivered a petition to the U.S. Congress with more than 2000 signatures against the Asylum Cooperative Agreements (ACAs). The agreements, also known as “safe third country” agreements, were signed between the Trump administration and the governments of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras in 2019. The ACAs allow the U.S. to transfer asylum-seekers to these northern Central American countries which they are not from, thereby closing the doors to the U.S. asylum system and violating national and international refugee law. 

The petition states that the ACAs “threaten the security and dignity of migrants, and are a violation of the sovereignty of these countries.” As the U.S. Congress considers next year’s appropriations bills, “it should do everything within its power to stop the implementation of these Asylum Cooperative Agreements.” The campaign demands that the Congress defund the ACAs and demand more information about the signing, funding, and implementation of the ACAs. The ACAs were negotiated in secret and without the participation of any country’s respective legislature.

The ACAs have been rejected by the international community. As Silvia Raquec of Association Pop No’j says, “For too long, Central Americans have been forced to flee their homes. Now, they are sent to countries that they aren’t from, cornered into returning to even worse conditions that endanger their security and lives, for which the U.S. government is legally responsible.”

So far, Guatemala is the only country to implement its ACA. As a signatory of international treaties for refugee protection, Guatemala has affirmed the importance of the concept of refuge but utterly lacks the institutional infrastructure to respond to the needs of asylum-seekers. Honduras and El Salvador confront a similar situation.

More than 900 Salvadorans and Hondurans were transferred to Guatemala under the ACA. Less than 20 applied for asylum there; the majority returned to the dangers of their own countries. The ACAs are suspended due to the COVID-19 crisis, however, ACA deportations are scheduled to begin as soon as “sanitary protocols are established.” Contrary to the recommendations of international experts, the U.S. has continued deporting migrants to their countries of origin, thereby exporting COVID-19 to countries in the Global South that lack sufficient medical resources due to their collapsed healthcare systems.

The structural causes that make people flee from their home countries have not been resolved. The imposition of the ACAs only aggravates the situation of people marginalized by the state, especially Indigenous Peoples, LGBTQ people, women, and children. The coalition of organizations emphasize that there is no agreement or policy that will stop people from seeking a place where they can live a full life that is, most importantly, free from persecution and violence.

Contacts:

Claire Bransky, claire[at]nisgua.org

Daniella Burgi-Palomino, dburgipalomino[at]lawg.org

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