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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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