US signs asylum deal with Honduras

WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday that it has struck an agreement with Honduras designed to curb migration to the US, marking the latest in a string of accords with Central American countries.

The agreement with Honduras could allow the US to send some asylum seekers back to Honduras if they didn’t first claim asylum when passing through the country, similar to deals already made with Guatemala and El Salvador, according to a senior DHS official. Over the last fiscal year, the majority of migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border were from those three countries.

After a summer of rising apprehensions at the border, the Trump administration is redoubling efforts to stem the flow of migration to the US by making it harder for some migrants to seek asylum in the US.

On Monday, Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan said that as of next week, Border Patrol will no longer be releasing families into the interior of the US. In March, Border Patrol began releasing people directly from its custody with a notice to appear in court amid an influx of migrant arrivals at the southern border.

McAleenan said families claiming asylum will be sent to Mexico for the duration of their immigration proceedings or will be repatriated.

The acting DHS secretary has credited partnerships with El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to facilitate the repatriation of migrants, as well as the Migrant Protection Protocols program, which requires some migrants to wait in Mexico for the duration of their immigration proceedings.

In the last six months, the US has signed agreements with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. DHS has not released the contents of the agreements with Honduras and El Salvador, nor a clear timeline on when they’ll be enforced or details of implementation.

“We are working with all three on implementation,” the senior DHS official told reporters Wednesday, referring to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

The accords have received pushback from immigrant advocacy groups who argue that they risk putting migrants in harm’s way.

The State Department travel advisory for Honduras warns against travel to Honduras “due to crime.”

“Violent crime, such as homicide and armed robbery, is common,” the advisory reads. Violent gang activity, such as extortion, violent street crime, rape, and narcotics and human trafficking, is widespread. Local police and emergency services lack sufficient resources to respond effectively to serious crime.”

Earlier this summer, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández was also accused of being connected to a drug trafficking conspiracy with his brother, multiple news outlets reported at the time. Hernández denied the allegations.

The Trump administration has also moved forward with other policies intended to crack down on illegal immigration.

The Migrant Protection Protocols program, which was rolled out earlier this year, is being implemented at San Ysidro, Calexico port of entry, San Diego sector, Paso del Norte port of entry, El Paso sector, El Centro sector, Brownsville, and Laredo. It’s unclear whether the program will be implemented across the entire southwest border, but so far, around 42,000 people have been returned to Mexico through it.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court also cleared the way for the Trump administration’s rule that dramatically limits the ability of Central American migrants to claim asylum in the US.

“It is one of several tools and we seek to utilize all of them for the purposes of addressing out crisis at the southern border,” the senior DHS official said.

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