On September 20, the U.S. and Salvadoran government announced a new deal, under which, according to unnamed U.S. officials who spoke to press, individuals or groups of people from specific countries who traveled through El Salvador could potentially be blocked from applying for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border and instead be returned to El Salvador. The announced agreement is the latest in a string of efforts by the Trump administration to push the burden of the migration crisis onto the very countries people are seeking to flee. In the case of El Salvador, this effort is compounded by actions by the Trump administration to not only keep migrants in El Salvador, but deport nearly 200,000 Salvadorans who live in the United States under the TPS humanitarian program. In response, Geoff Thale, the Vice President for Programs at research and advocacy group the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), issued the following statement:
“While specific details on this agreement haven’t yet been released, what’s clear is that the Trump administration is trying to turn Central America itself into a wall. Trapping asylum-seekers in a region unequipped to process their claims fairly, keep them safe, or guarantee them decent living conditions is immoral and inhumane. Instead of brazenly trying to offload its asylum obligations to countries that aren’t in a position to say no, the U.S. government should be working with Central American governments and civil society to fix the root problems like corruption, violence, climate change, and poverty driving people to flee.
“What makes this agreement particularly cruel is that while the Trump administration presses El Salvador to block asylum seekers from reaching the U.S.-Mexico border, it’s also undercutting the legal status of Salvadorans here in the United States. Nearly 200,000 people of Salvadoran origin, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for decades and have U.S. citizen children, are stuck in legal limbo and are at risk of deportation back to El Salvador, thanks to the Trump government’s gutting of the TPS humanitarian program. TPS holders urgently need a permanent, legal solution in order to keep their families together, such as the Dream and Promise Act of 2019.”