Monthly Archives: May 2020

Deported Asylum Seekers Differ On U.S. Policy Sending Them To Guatemala – Part 1

After being flown from the United States to Guatemala, asylum-seeker Natalia Medina needed to change the little money she had into Guatemalan currency. Despite documents showing she was legally in Guatemala for 72 hours, three banks refused to serve her. Medina departed Guatemala immediately. (photo: Lorne Matalon)

GUATEMALA CITY—In March, Guatemala closed its borders and airports to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus. But there was one special set of flights still allowed in – and it was for immigration enforcement. Asylum seekers from Honduras and El Salvador were being deported to Guatemala, with the planes lifting off from Texas. A few days ago, Guatemala temporarily suspended acceptance of these flights. But many detainees have already landed there and claim they were misled about where they were going in the first place.

The fights were conducted under a Trump administration policy that is under challenge in U.S. federal court. Opponents claim U.S. law and international treaty obligations are being violated by sending people to countries where they face certain danger.

Blanca Díaz is a 26-year-old from Usulután, El Salvador where she operated a one-person unisex hair salon from home. She says she received extortion threats from pandilleros, criminals who are soldiers for organized crime. Pandilleros are akin to parallel states in Central America’s Northern Triangle – a security-challenged region comprising El Savador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Blanca Díaz attempts to connect with family in El Salvador hours after being deported from Texas to Guatemala City. Díaz had applied for political asylum in the U.S. (photo: Lorne Matalon)
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Deported Asylum Seekers Differ On U.S. Policy Sending Them To Guatemala – Part 2

Natalia Medina checks for messages from her family in Honduras after being sent to Guatemala City by the U.S. Unlike the vast majority of deported asylum seekers, Medina said the experience of being jailed in Texas was so shattering she won’t contemplate returning. (photo: Lorne Matalon)

GUATEMALA CITY—The United States has sent more than 800 asylum-seekers to Guatemala since late 2019. The asylum-seekers are not from Guatemala but from two Central American nations, El Salvador and Honduras. The flights bringing the asylum-seekers to Guatemala depart from Texas. Most people interviewed for this story who were on a recent flight said they will attempt to return to the U.S. But others, their spirits crushed by the ordeal of arrest, deportation and return to the very region they fled, said they will not try again.

Supporters of the Trump administration policy say such sentiments underscore the effectiveness of the plan as a deterrent to those who would seek safety in the U.S. under the terms of political asylum.

People from El Salvador and Honduras exchange stories on their overnight deportation from Texas. They were sent here to Guatemala City under terms of a Trump administration policy that is under challenge in U.S. federal court. (photo; Lorne Matalon)
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