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NPR News

Biden Moves To End Trump-Era Asylum Agreements With Central American Countries

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, announced the Biden administration's plan to terminate agreements with El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras that allowed the U.S. to send asylum-seekers to those countries.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, announced the Biden administration's plan to terminate agreements with El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras that allowed the U.S. to send asylum-seekers to those countries.

The Biden administration is ending agreements with the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras that the Trump administration said were meant to help drive down the number of migrants seeking asylum at the U.S. border.

The State Department announced on Saturday that it had suspended the so-called Asylum Cooperative Agreements, with immediate effect, and initiated the process to terminate them.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in the statement that the administration has notified El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras that the United States "is taking this action as efforts to establish a cooperative, mutually respectful approach to managing migration across the region begin."

Under the agreements, signed in 2019, the U.S. could send asylum-seekers to the three Latin American countries to "share the distribution of asylum claims," according to the Federal Register.

Critics said the policies risked putting asylum seekers into unsafe environments. Last year, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration's asylum agreement with Guatemala, a country grappling with widespread poverty and extreme violence.

Transfers under the U.S.-Guatemala Asylum Cooperative Agreement have been paused since March due to the pandemic, and the agreements with El Salvador and Honduras were never implemented, the State Department said.

The moves to eliminate the Asylum Cooperative Agreements is another step by the Biden administration to dismantle Trump's immigration policies, after pushing ahead with a reform plan and signing a series of executive orders on immigration.

Secretary Blinken said the steps to get rid of the pacts with El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala "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," he said.

"We will address the root causes of forced displacement and irregular migration, including by combatting corruption and impunity, upholding our obligations to protect refugees, and working collaboratively with our partners to promote opportunity and prosperity for people and communities across the region."

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