Women's Refugee Commission Responds to Trump Administration's Safe Third Country Action with Guatemala

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last week, the Trump administration sent an asylum-seeking Honduran man to Guatemala – the first such action as part of the controversial “Safe Third Country” agreement signed with the nation in July, but which did not take effect until Tuesday, November 19, when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued rules about its implementation. The Women’s Refugee Commission has long criticized “Safe Third Country” agreements for sending asylum-seekers to danger.

In response to this action, and in advance of what is expected to be a robust comment period by migrant and refugee rights advocates regarding the DHS rules, Michelle Brané, senior director for migrant rights and justice at the Women’s Refugee Commission, issued the following statement:

“Let’s be clear here, Guatemala is not a safe alternative for asylum-seekers – it’s quite the opposite. Not only are Guatemalan citizens themselves fleeing violence and requesting asylum elsewhere, the country does not have the capacity to process the asylum claims of those passing through the country and is not capable of providing fair and full asylum processes to people in need of international protection.

“To make matters worse, under the rule published on November 19, asylum-seekers will not be allowed to access legal counsel before being transferred to a third country to claim asylum. In implementing this policy, the United States is knowingly and intentionally returning asylum-seekers to danger.

“This policy confirms the administration’s disregard for U.S. laws, international obligations, and human dignity. It is illegal and a violation of fundamental U.S. values. Make no mistake, the human rights community will not sit idly by on this; we will continue to fight this administration at every inhumane turn it takes.”