U.S. Agreement with El Salvador Will Endanger Asylum Seekers

Monday, September 23, 2019

On September 20 the United States signed a bilateral “cooperative asylum agreement” with El Salvador, marking yet another shameful attempt by the Trump Administration to slam the door on asylum seekers and leave women, children, and families stranded in one of the most dangerous regions in the world. Though details of the new agreement remain unclear, U.S. officials have informed reporters that the agreement may be used to force individuals seeking asylum in the United States to instead apply for protection in El Salvador. If such an agreement were to be implemented, it could result in countless asylum seekers being sent back to a country completely unequipped to process their claims and that is itself experiencing crisis levels of violence.

The idea that El Salvador might serve as a safe haven for asylum seekers is absurd, as it is one of the very countries from which thousands have been forced to flee in recent years; last year over 47,000 Salvadoran nationals sought asylum in the United States. El Salvador’s homicide and femicide rates are among the highest in the world, and perpetrators largely go unpunished. Gangs operate throughout El Salvador with virtual impunity, in many parts of the country functioning as de facto authorities. Women, children, and LGBTQ people face heightened levels of violence and exploitation, and migrants are particularly vulnerable. In addition to these serious dangers, the Salvadoran government does not have the capacity to extend protection to any significant number of asylum seekers. The country received just a handful of asylum applications last year.

“After returning over 45,000 asylum seekers to danger in Mexico and forcing Guatemala into an illegal safe third country agreement, the Trump Administration now wants to send asylum seekers to El Salvador, a country plagued by rampant violence and corruption,” CGRS Gender Asylum Campaign Director Kate Jastram said today. “This Administration is making a mockery of our humanitarian commitments, bullying other countries into shouldering our protection responsibilities, violating our laws, and putting thousands of refugees directly into harm’s way.”