In response to a reported draft agreement between the U.S. and Guatemala on the handling of asylum seekers, Refugees International President Eric Schwartz issued the following statement:
“This evening the New Yorker reported it had obtained a draft agreement between the United States and Guatemala providing that asylum seekers ‘from any country who either show up at U.S. ports of entry or are apprehended while crossing between ports of entry could be sent to seek asylum in Guatemala instead.’ If such an agreement is signed, it would represent a grotesque violation of both U.S. law and common decency. Because it would most likely be applied principally to asylum seekers from Honduras and El Salvador, it would put at risk the lives of thousands of Central Americans.
“Guatemala lacks a full and fair procedure for determining a claim to asylum, as is required for U.S. agreements with foreign governments for the transfer of asylum seekers. Forcing asylum seekers into Guatemala violates both U.S. law and international refugee law, both of which state that an asylum seeker may only be transported to a place where his or her ‘life or freedom would not be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.’ Individuals forced into Guatemala would constitute an especially vulnerable social group subject to grave risks at the hands of gangs and other criminal elements. This reported arrangement is shameful and a stain on this nation’s honor. If it is signed, it will be a very sad day for the United States of America.”