Trump Administration Reaches Asylum Deal with El Salvador

The Trump administration announced an accord Friday that the United States will be able to divert asylum seekers from the U.S. border to El Salvador. The acting homeland security secretary, Kevin McAleenan, signed a “memorandum of understanding” with Salvadoran Foreign Minister, Alexander Hill in Washington, but the two officials gave few details on when this accord would initiate.

This accord takes the Trump administration a step closer to seeking their overall goal—to reduce the number of migrants from around the world who are applying for protection on U.S. soil.

What Does This Accord with El Salvador Mean?

On Friday, McAleenan stated that the United States has “shared responsibility” with El Salvador to keep migrants in their home countries and to accelerate economic development in Central American countries. However, the agreement demonstrates that the Trump Administration doesn’t have an issue sending asylum seekers to one of the most dangerous countries in the world. El Salvador and surrounding regions are where people have been fleeing from due to extreme poverty, violence, and corruption. It is clear that the accord was established to discourage migrants from attempting a journey to the U.S. border in the first place.

McAleenan changed the accord’s name from “safe third country” to “asylum cooperation agreement,” considering that it’s difficult to believe the Northern Triangle region of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala safe—it has among the highest homicide rates in the world.

“Individuals crossing through El Salvador should be able to seek protection there, and we want to enforce the integrity of that process throughout the region,” said McAleenan.

Who Will Be Affected By This Accord?

Asylum seekers from Nicaragua, Cuba, and other nations who passed through El Salvador en route to the U.S. border will be eligible to return there once the accord is implemented. As part of the plan, the United States will help build an asylum system in El Salvador and other nations in the region. Only 18 people sought asylum in El Salvador last year according to the latest U.N. data.

The Trump administration is also attempting to end the temporary protection status (TPS) of roughly 200,000 Salvadorans who’ve been living in the United States for nearly 20 years and have them blocked in court. The current extension is valid through January. McAleenan is also nearing accord deals with Guatemala and Honduras. The asylum accord would not send Salvadorans back to their country if they reach the U.S. border seeking protection, though they could be routed to Guatemala if that deal takes effect.

An immigration analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, Cristobal Ramón, said that we still need to wait and see if the U.S. will provide El Salvador with assistance to implement the plan. “While El Salvador isn’t receiving as many asylum seekers as the United States and Mexico, the country may not have the institutional capacity and resources to process an uptick of asylum seekers that may be sent back under the terms of the deal, which could undermine its implementation,” said Ramón.

If you need legal assistance with your asylum status or any other immigration issues, contact our New Jersey immigration attorneys today to schedule an appointment: (800) 909-8129.