United States Signs Asylum Pact With Honduras to Curb Illegal Border Crossings

September 26, 2019 Updated: September 26, 2019

The Trump administration has penned a deal with Honduras to help curb the flow of migrants from Central America into the United States.

The agreement, signed on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept. 25, allows the United States to send some asylum seekers from third countries to Honduras.

While details remain scant and it is unclear when the deal will be implemented, the agreement also lets the United States pledge support to build up the fledgling asylum capacity in Honduras to make it more feasible for the country to house those in search of a new home.

In a nod to the absence of a robust network to absorb refugees, acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan on Monday announced $47 million in aid for Guatemala to build its asylum system. The United States and Guatemala in July signed a similar asylum deal to the one just penned with Honduras. It remains unclear what assistance Honduras may get.

A joint statement by the United States and Honduras said: “The two countries will collaborate to increase protection options for vulnerable populations. The United States and Honduras will work together to ensure that these vulnerable populations are not victimized by smugglers.”

Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez Alvarado addresses the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2019. (Richard Drew/AP Photo)

A similar deal was sealed with El Salvador last week and others were previously struck with Mexico and Guatemala.

The agreements are part of the Trump administration’s strategy to prevent uncontrolled migration across the southwest border and disrupt human smuggling operations.

Trump told reporters that the deals, coupled with tougher measures by Mexico following tariff threats, “will make a tremendous difference in our southern border.” Speaking at a meeting with El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, on the sidelines of the General Assembly, Trump said the agreements were “good for all of us.”

President Donald Trump meets with President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador at the InterContinental Barclay New York hotel during the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept. 25, 2019. (Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

Migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador—known collectively as the Northern Triangle—make up the majority of those arrested or stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border.

U.S. immigration officials said in March that the U.S. border had reached a breaking point, with tens of thousands of migrant families crossing. That had led to massive overcrowding and reports of fetid and filthy conditions and prolonged detention at U.S. border facilities not meant to hold people more than a few days. It’s unclear whether the numbers will rise again as the desert weather cools.

In other efforts to tighten immigration restrictions, the Trump administration has made more than 42,000 people, largely Central Americans, wait in Mexico and cross the border for hearings in U.S. immigration courts.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court this month cleared the way for the administration to deny asylum to certain categories of migrants. The policy is meant to deny asylum to anyone who passes through another country on the way to the United States without seeking protection there.

Asylum seekers must pass an initial screening called a “credible fear” interview, a hurdle that a vast majority clear. Under the new policy, they would fail the test unless they sought asylum in at least one country they traveled through and were denied. They would be placed in fast-track deportation proceedings and flown to their home countries at U.S. expense.

The asylum ban has taken effect in tandem with U.S. efforts to help impoverished, dangerous, and corrupt Central American countries absorb large numbers of people seeking refuge there.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview on July 22 that the United States had broadened its economic engagement with the Northern Triangle, noting that in addition to direct migration from the three countries, many of the migrants who arrive on the U.S. border transit through the area.

“Many of the folks that we apprehend today at our southern border are not only from those three countries but are transiting through those three countries. They have an obligation,” Pompeo told conservative radio host Buck Sexton.

“It’s interesting—I saw some statistics on how many Guatemalans have left, how deep the level of migration is. This isn’t good for Guatemala to have their citizens leaving either. They need their people to want to stay in the country, and their leaders need to create rule of law and systems that will convince them that that’s the right thing to do.”

Epoch Times reporter Peter Svab, Reuters, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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