May 28, 2020
The U.S.-Guatemala Asylum Cooperative Agreement (ACA) enables the United States to send non-Guatemalan asylum seekers to Guatemala before they can make an asylum claim at the U.S. southern border. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the deal has been on hold since mid-March. However, it has put at risk hundreds of people who have well-founded fears of persecution, and the U.S. government plans to implement similar deals with the governments of El Salvador and Honduras—countries that cannot provide effective protection to asylum seekers.
In an investigation into the ACA, Refugees International and Human Rights Watch interviewed 30 asylum seekers transferred to Guatemala under the agreement. Those transferred reported abuses while in U.S. custody and, upon arrival in Guatemala, and often felt compelled to abandon their asylum claims and return to their home counties. Their findings were published in the recent report, “Deportation with a Layover: Failure of Protection under the U.S.-Guatemala Asylum Cooperative Agreement.”
Refugees International and Human Rights Watch hosted a webinar with the report authors about their findings, featuring a video from a woman from El Salvador who was transferred to Guatemala through the ACA and commentary from Linda Corchado, a leading immigration attorney in El Paso, where implementation of the ACA began.
Yael Schacher, Senior U.S. Advocate at Refugees International
Linda Corchado, director of Legal Services at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso
Ariana Sawyer, U.S. border researcher at Human Rights Watch
Rachel Schmidtke, Latin America advocate at Refugees International