Several advocacy groups have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration to challenge a policy that lets asylum seekers be deported to Central American countries.
The lawsuit argues that the policy prevents applicants from ever reaching asylum and puts them at risk by returning them to the same dangerous region they ran from.
“The Trump administration has created a deadly game of musical chairs that leaves desperate refugees without a safe haven, in violation of U.S. and international law,” Katrina Eiland, an attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a press release. “The administration is illegally trying to turn away asylum-seekers and pass the buck to other countries that can’t protect them.”
The suit claims that the policy violates the Refugee Act, Immigration and Nationality Act, and Administrative Procedure Act.
Asylum seekers have the right to apply to stay in the U.S. unless they can go to another safe country, but the country has to give “access to a full and fair procedure for determining a claim to asylum” to be defined as safe.
“The Rule recklessly subverts our legal framework for accepting refugees into a machinery for casting them off into circumstances as perilous as those they fled,” the suit claims.
The Trump administration started sending asylum seekers to Guatemala in November and had sent guidance saying that Mexican asylum seekers would also be sent there.
“For most asylum seekers, seeking protection in Guatemala is not an option,” the lawsuit states. “The country lacks a full and fair asylum processing system, and is often even more dangerous for migrants than it is for Guatemalans, who have fled the country in large numbers.”
Approximately 100 migrants have been sent to Guatemala to seek asylum as part of the acting agreement.
One of the asylum seekers is a woman from Honduras, who fled to the U.S. with her daughter after her husband and sister-in-law were extorted by local gangs and murdered one year apart from each other. She came to the U.S. in December with her daughter, but they were sent to Guatemala to get asylum there.
Once she got there, she “learned that she had 72 hours to decide whether to stay in Guatemala and apply for asylum or return to Honduras.”
The woman returned to Honduras temporarily because she felt she had no means to remain safe in Guatemala.