Elliot Spagat, Associated Press, October 23, 2020
One of President Donald Trump’s top priorities on immigration if he wins a second term would be to use agreements with Central American governments as models to get countries around the world to field asylum claims from people seeking refuge in the United States, a top adviser said.
Stephen Miller, a key architect of Trump’s immigration policies, said Friday the agreements would help stop “asylum fraud, asylum shopping and asylum abuse on a global scale.”
Miller, in an interview with The Associated Press, also forecast a broader offensive against so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, saying the administration would use its “full power, resources and authority.” He vowed more efforts toward legal immigration “based on merit.”
The “Asylum Cooperative Agreements” that the administration struck in 2019 have allowed for asylum seekers from El Salvador and Honduras to be flown to Guatemala for an opportunity to seek asylum, denying them a chance to apply in the U.S.
From November to March, when the coronavirus pandemic halted flights to Guatemala, only 20 of 939 Hondurans and El Salvadorans flown there sought asylum. Nearly all went home in what became known as “deportation with a layover.”
The coronavirus struck before flights began to Honduras and El Salvador, putting those launches on hold.
Administration officials have discussed adding countries from Africa and Asia to create a global web of accords resembling those with Central American governments. Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were under heavy U.S. pressure to acquiesce last year, with Trump threatening at times to cut off international aid.
Such agreements could potentially be proposed to countries that send large numbers of asylum-seekers to the United States, such as Cameroon or China.
Trump, who made immigration a signature issue in his 2016 campaign, has introduced a flurry of regulations in recent months that are expected to be finalized soon after incorporating public feedback. They are largely about restricting asylum.
Miller said the administration would continue its efforts to redefine criteria for legal immigration, which are now largely based on family ties.