Washington D.C., Nov 25, 2019 / 16:20 pm
New asylum rules from the Trump administration put vulnerable people at risk and could further destabilize Central America, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services have said.
The rules would allow U.S. officials to screen asylum applicants to determine if they are eligible to apply for asylum in certain Central American countries. If so, they can be deported to those countries without their asylum application being heard in the United States, Reuters reports.
“Vulnerable individuals seeking protection and safety in the United States should be welcomed and given the chance to access the protection that our laws provide. If implemented, we fear that the asylum cooperation agreements would leave many helpless people, including families and children, unable to attain safety and freedom from violence and persecution,” the organizations said in a joint statement.
The statement was signed by both Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville of Washington, who serves as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration; and Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, the bishops’ international relief agency.
Their statement responded to two notices published Nov. 18 in the Federal Register concerning the implementation of asylum cooperation agreements with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Dorsonville and Callahan objected that the rules would allow the U.S. government to send asylum seekers to these three countries without giving them the opportunity to seek asylum in the U.S. The rules require the three countries’ governments to judge asylum claims and attempt to provide protection.
“The governments of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras do not have the resources nor the capacity to safely accept, process, and integrate asylees,” Dorsonville and Callahan said, citing the globally high rates of homicide in the region.
The agreements with the three countries have been signed but not yet finalized. There are “numerous concerns” with these agreements’ implementation, said the U.S. Catholic leaders, who added that the Catholic Church in Guatemala is among those voicing concern.