Beginning December 2019, the United States has begun taking Honduran and Salvadoran asylum seekers at the southern U.S. border and putting them on airplanes headed to Guatemala. In July of 2019, the United States signed an agreement with Guatemala regarding the process. The United States threatened to impose tariffs if Guatemala declined to sign the agreement.
According to the agreement, any person who travels through Guatemala on the journey to the United States must seek asylum in Guatemala. Any person who does not seek asylum in Guatemala is subject to being sent to Guatemala.
Human rights migrants and activists have strongly opposed the agreement given Guatemala’s high rate of gang violence and crime rate. Asylum seekers are likely to be placed in peril once sent to Guatemala. Many asylum seekers who arrive at the U.S. border are escaping life-threatening situations and are now more at risk of being sent to a country in which they have never resided.
The United States is currently sending Honduran and El Salvadoran asylum seekers to Guatemala every two days via plane. According to the Washington Post, “Many arrive with the same question: ‘Where are we?’” Migrants have been placed on planes without knowing where they are going and without further instruction regarding what to do once they are arrive in Guatemala.
When they arrive in Guatemala City, the migrants receive little information about the asylum application process. If they don’t immediately apply, they are told to leave Guatemala within 72 hours.
The United States has signed similar agreements with Honduras and El Salvador, but they have yet to take effect.