Secretary of State Tony Blinken announced the suspension and subsequent termination of the Asylum Cooperative Agreement with El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras on Saturday, ending a Trump-era partnership designed to reduce asylum fraud.
“The United States has suspended and initiated the process to terminate the Asylum Cooperative Agreements with the Governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras as the first concrete steps on the path to greater partnership and collaboration in the region laid out by President Biden,” Blinken’s statement said. “The termination of these Agreements is effective after the notice period stipulated in each of the Agreements, but their suspension is immediate.”
The Asylum Cooperative Agreement allowed the United States to deport migrants seeking asylum back to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, effectively diminishing the number of people seeking asylum while cutting down on asylum fraud.
Blinken said the decision builds on the February 2 Executive Order signed by President Biden that sought to create a “comprehensive regional framework to address the causes of migration, manage migration throughout North and Central America, and provide safe and orderly processing of asylum seekers.”
“To be clear, these actions do not mean that the U.S. border is open. While we are committed to expanding legal pathways for protection and opportunity here and in the region, the United States is a country with borders and laws that must be enforced. We are also committed to providing safe and orderly processing for all who arrive at our border, but those who attempt to migrate irregularly are putting themselves and their families at risk on what can be a very dangerous journey,” Blinken continued.
In 2019, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham helped pass legislation out of Committee to close policy gaps that contribute to asylum fraud.
“I will no longer allow our asylum laws to be exploited by human traffickers, smugglers and cartels,” said Graham. “Cartels, smugglers and human traffickers are profiting off immigrants and helping them take advantage of our broken asylum laws. I will no longer allow the loopholes in our laws to be exploited. I will not aid and abet these horrific practices. My bill fixes these problems.”
Before the Asylum Cooperative Agreement was initiated, human traffickers, smugglers and cartels helped migrants understand loopholes in the asylum system, fueling the years-long migrant caravan crisis.
Last week, Department of Homeland Security officials deleted a standard warning sent to immigrants who face deportation due to overstayed visas out of concerns that the practice could make illegal immigrants feel “undue stress.”
In January, around 6,500 migrants started heading north to the United States. Reuters reported that the Guatemalan military arrested hundreds of migrants, including a number of families traveling with young children.