The Trump administration will now deport Mexican asylum seekers who arrive at the U.S. southern border to Guatemala, in an expansion of a controversial plan to deter migration at the border, BuzzFeed News reported Monday. The program was signed in July and implemented in late November, according to documents. The move is expected to outrage advocates and lawmakers alike, who have said the plan lacks legality and puts immigrants in potentially dangerous circumstances. The plan initially only focused on El Paso but later expanded to include the Rio Grande Valley. Forty-three asylum seekers from El Salvador and Honduras were reportedly deported to Guatemala as of late December under the plan, which started including families on Dec. 10.
The Trump administration says the plan is part of a larger strategy to restrict asylum seekers from entering the U.S. One asylum officer told BuzzFeed News that Guatemala is even more dangerous than Mexico and the expansion of the agreement “continues to prevent legitimate asylum seekers from having their cases heard by the U.S. and foists them upon the Guatemalan system which has about a dozen staff.”