Screenshot via BadFoxGraphics on Twitter

The Trump administration's efforts to eliminate the asylum process continues, this time into downright bizarre territory. Yr Wonkette likes to joke about how all rightwingers seem to think everyone from Latin America is from "Mexico," and as the above 100 percent real Fox News chyron demonstrates, the Right is pretty helpful in creating that impression. But now the administration is out to deter asylum applicants who really are from Mexico by sending them to Guatemala, which makes all kinds of sense. Buzzfeed News reports that, under an expansion of an already controversial program aimed at preventing anyone from gaining asylum at the southern border, the US will begin sending Mexican asylum-seekers to Guatemala instead of allowing them to seek refuge in the US.

Well sure it's probably a violation of US and international law. Why would that stop this bunch? Besides, look at all the federal judges Mitch is getting confirmed!

Over the summer, the administration came up with a neat, if legally dubious, means of stopping Central Americans from seeking asylum in the US, by writing new rules that would only allow them to apply here if they had already been rejected for asylum in another country between home and the US. And even people who passed the initial stage of screening would be forced to wait in Mexico until their asylum case was resolved. The US also reached an iffy deal with Guatemala in which that country would become a "safe third country" to which the US could send asylum seekers, even though Guatemala is so dangerous that people are fleeing it to seek asylum here.

Buzzfeed News reports that under the new arrangement,

As of late December 2019, 43 asylum-seekers from El Salvador and Honduras have been deported to Guatemala under the agreement, according to government data obtained by BuzzFeed News. The plan was initially limited to adult asylum-seekers but was expanded to families on Dec. 10 [...]

The Wall Street Journal offers additional context on why the US is deporting Mexicans to Guatemala. It seems the demographics of who's seeking asylum are again shifting:

Migrants coming to the U.S. from the three Central American countries, known collectively as the Northern Triangle, made up the majority of asylum seekers crossing the U.S. border since 2014. This fall, however, most of the migrants taken into custody by border agents have been Mexican, reversing the trend of the last half-decade, monthly U.S. Customs and Border Protection figures show.

The rise in Mexican asylum seekers -- coming as the number of migrants from most other countries falls -- has proved vexing for the Trump administration, which had crafted most of its policies with the aim of deterring border-crossing by migrants from countries further south. Trump administration officials persuaded Guatemala to accept Mexicans after President Trump held an Oval Office meeting with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales late last month, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

It's not clear why the makeup of those seeking asylum is changing; it certainly could be that Central Americans have heard that instead of being able to apply for asylum, they'll be shipped to camps in Mexico, where they're likely to be preyed on by gangs, so why not just get robbed, beaten, or raped by the gangs without having to leave home? That, for Team Trump, counts as success.

A Homeland Security spokesperson issued a bland statement confirming the new policy toward Mexican asylum seekers, who'll be perfectly safe in Guatemala, you bet:

Certain Mexicans seeking humanitarian protections in the United States may now be eligible to be transferred to Guatemala and given the opportunity to seek protection there, under the terms of the Guatemala Asylum Cooperative Agreement.

Oh, it's an opportunity! How nice! Sure, there are still a few questions about whether Guatemala is the least bit able to handle an influx of asylum seekers the US doesn't want, let alone keep them safe. An American asylum officer, speaking anonymously, told Buzzfeed News the new policy will put asylum seekers at risk:

Mexico is dangerous; Guatemala is even more so. This expansion of the [agreement] continues to prevent legitimate asylum-seekers from having their cases heard by the US and foists them upon the Guatemalan system, which has about a dozen staff [...] Asylum in the US is now practically available only for people wealthy and privileged enough to get visas, shutting out many of the most vulnerable groups asking for help at our borders. [Emphasis added -- Dok Zoom]

The Wall Street Journal adds that those 12 or so asylum officials for the whole country "meet to evaluate asylum claims several times a year," so that should mean speedy, careful resolution of cases. As of 2018, the UN's High Commission for Refugees reports, Guatemala has accepted just 390 people for asylum, which of course predates the new agreement with the US.

Big surprise, the Journal notes, the administration was in a hurry to set up the new agreement before Guatemala's presidency changes hands on January 14.

His successor, Alejandro Giammattei, has criticized the migration pact, saying that Guatemala, an impoverished and violence-racked country of 16 million, isn't prepared to take asylum seekers from the region.

Ready or not, Trump has threatened to cut off economic development aid to Guatemala unless it accepts asylum seekers, so Guatemala is now a very safe place, you see?

Gee, you almost wonder whether, by closing the border to people seeking asylum and shipping refugees to Guatemala, the US just might be setting up a disaster a few years or decades down the road, particularly given that climate change is already driving migration? Probably nothing to worry about. For now, Donald Trump just wants to get reelected, and the future isn't his problem.

[Buzzfeed News / WSJ / ACLU / Guardian]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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