Trump administration begins deporting asylum seekers to Guatemala.
The Trump administration has sent the first migrant to Guatemala as part of its agreement with the country to accept asylum seeking migrants from the US, according to Guatemalan officials. Migrants from Honduras and El Salvador are eligible to be sent back to Guatemala under this program, according to a source familiar.
Under US law, migrants are allowed to claim asylum once on US soil. There's a caveat, however, for those who come through safe third countries, meaning countries that the US has entered into an agreement with. The United Nations' refugee agency defines "safe country," in part, as "being countries in which refugees can enjoy asylum without any danger."
Migrants who are placed in this asylum program do not have access to counsel prior to being removed from the US, according to two sources familiar with the process.
The Guatemala accord was the first of a series of similar agreements with Central American countries. In fiscal year 2019, Customs and Border Protection apprehended and deemed inadmissible nearly one million people -- the majority of whom were from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.
Michael Knowles, president of a local union that represents US asylum officers, denounced the Trump administration's asylum policies during a House hearing Tuesday, calling them "egregious" and "illegal."
"These policies are blatantly illegal, they are immoral, and indeed are the basis for some egregious human rights violations by our own country," Knowles testified.
Updated 5:27 PM ET, Thu November 21, 2019