In 2019, the Trump administration pressured Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to strike bilateral deals to launder the deportation of those seeking protection from US authorities.
Under the false premise that they would be eligible for international protection, the agreements laid the groundwork for the transfer of migrants to one of these countries, pending the resolution of their cases.
The agreement was a resounding failure and Guatemala is the only country where it has been implemented. In the few months of its implementation, the United States returned nearly 900 asylum seekers to the country. However, given the risks migrants faced while waiting, more than 95% were forced to return to the country of origin from which they had fled for their lives.
The Asylum Cooperation Agreements (ACAs), widely criticized for opposition in all three countries, were known as “safe third country agreements”. However, it was an understatement to support the restrictive and exclusive policies of Donald Trump’s administration regarding migrants.
The infeasibility of these agreements was evident from the moment they were signed. Because of Washington’s demands, which were neither diplomatic nor appeasing, Central American governments had to reluctantly accept the agreements.
However, it was precisely from these countries that migrants fled. It is in these countries that the greatest violations of human rights occur and where the respective socio-economic and political contexts determine massive emigration. Especially from Honduras, the birthplace of the infamous caravans that began to leave the country in October 2018.
In this sense, these agreements have become a further step towards the dismantling of the international protection of refugees, exposing them to human rights violations and, consequently, to serious risks to their life and integrity.
Biden’s migration policy
Earlier in February, the Biden administration resolved, among its first measures related to the migration phenomenon, to rescind these unnecessary and abusive agreements. A good decision, according to sources such as the CEJIL (Center for Justice and International Law), which has always opposed these agreements because they consider them a serious threat to the human rights of refugees.
According to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, the US government is therefore taking “the first concrete steps to achieve greater partnership and collaboration in the region”, in accordance with the new migration policy outlined by President Joe Biden, who has since been arrived at White House pledged to dismantle Donald Trump’s immigration policy.
“In line with the President’s perspective, we have informed the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras that the United States is taking this step as efforts begin to establish a cooperative and mutually respectful approach to migration management. in the region, ”Blinken added in an official statement.
Experts predict that this cancellation could create false expectations among the populations of the Northern Triangle, who could interpret it as an opening of the borders of the United States. Nothing could be further from the truth. The new policies may not be as restrictive as those issued by Washington over the past four years, but they will not be as permissive as many believe in these punished lands in Central America.
According to other initiatives, such as the Engel List, it appears that the perspective of the Biden administration will be global, seeking to assess the real causes of migration from these three countries, while respecting international agreements.
So far, an economic contribution of four billion dollars has already been approved for the region, to be disbursed during the four years of its administration. This would seek to create more opportunities for the population of the Northern Triangle, thus preventing massive migration to the north. However, it should be borne in mind that the regional economic crisis, with the ensuing lack of jobs, is not the only reason to emigrate. The violence generated by common and organized crime is also one of the main reasons.
Likewise, according to what Democratic Congresswoman Norma Torres, of Guatemalan descent, said, the current administration will focus particularly on tackling the corruption that prevails in the region as a cause of migration. According to this reasoning, the corruption of factual and institutional powers in the three countries generates the embezzlement of money necessary to improve the living conditions of its citizens.
It remains to be seen how far the measures taken by the current occupant of the White House will go in this area, to see if the expectations raised are justified or not. Considering Biden’s personal history, this might be a futile illusion.
Spanish translation by Maria Isabel Santos Lima
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