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WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 9, 2021) -- 85 immigrant rights organizations are calling on the Biden administration to allow asylum seekers who were unlawfully expelled to Guatemala under the Trump administration’s Asylum Cooperative Agreement (ACA) program an opportunity to return to the United States and seek protection. 

In a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and Attorney General Merrick Garland, the nongovernmental organizations ask the administration to allow approximately 945 Honduran and Salvadoran asylum seekers who were unlawfully deprived of their right to seek protection in the United States and instead summarily deported to Guatemala between November 2019 and March 2020 to return and pursue their asylum claims. The Biden administration terminated the ACA with Guatemala in February 2021.

“As this administration moves ahead to address the plight of asylum seekers harmed by Trump-era policies, we urge the administration to commit to initial procedural measures to allow the small number of families and individuals deported to danger in Guatemala under the ACA program to seek protection in the United States,” the letter states.

The letter asks for this group to receive an opportunity for protection similar to what the Biden administration already has extended to others whom the Trump administration unlawfully blocked at the border. The Biden administration has permitted more than 11,000 asylum seekers forcibly returned to Mexico under the prior administration’s Migration Protection Protocols to enter the United States to pursue claims for protection, and has announced “a process for accepting parole requests” from people subjected to the Trump administration’s devastating family separation policy. 

Among the people profiled in the letter who remain in desperate need of U.S. asylum protection is “Josué,” a gay man who fled Honduras in 2019 because of persecution by police and others.  Josué sought asylum at the U.S. border, but was removed to Guatemala even after he described to DHS officers the dangers he would face as a gay man. Days after his removal to Guatemala, Josué narrowly escaped a homophobic attack. He had to flee to Mexico, where he was then persecuted by Mexican law enforcement and unable to find safety. 

The organizations provide detailed recommendations for the administration to extend meaningful protection to people who remain in danger because of the ACA program.

Read the letter and list of organizations who joined in the request here.

 

Media Contacts:
Tara Tidwell Cullen, NIJC, (312) 833-2967, ttidwellcullen@heartlandalliance.org
Inga Sarda-Sorensen, ACLU, (347) 514-3984, isarda-sorensen@aclu.org
Elaine de Leon, Tahirih Justice Center, elained@tahirih.org
Brianna Krong, CGRS, krongbrianna@uchastings.edu
Meredith MacKenzie, mmackenzie@westendstrategy.com, (202) 412-4270