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Policy Summary
Since March, the Trump Administration has expelled almost 10,000 migrants using emergency public health measures that have granted US Customs and Border Protection temporary authority to bypass immigration laws. There are now fewer than 100 migrants in federal custody.

In April, forty-four migrants on a deportation flight from the US to Guatemala tested positive for COVID-19. Prior, there were only 800 confirmed cases total in all three Northern Triangle countries. Within Guatemala there are two major urban hospitals and smaller regional facilities. Their capacity to handle a potential outbreak as a result of these forty-four confirmed cases is extremely limited. The Mexican government has since agreed to accept the rapid return of migrants from Mexico and the Northern Triangle, according to a recent agreement with the Trump Administration. However, it is unclear how sustainable this plan would be given the large volume of migrants the US has been deporting.

Analysis

The US is bound to the customary international law principle of non-refoulement (the practice of not forcing refugees or immigrants to return to a country where they are subject to persecution). Due to these rapid return measure the Trump Administration has employed since lockdown, migrants are now not only unable to claim asylum and/or other forms of humanitarian protections but are also being expelled to countries in which they fear persecution.

Additionally, the US has almost directly spread the pandemic in Guatemala, where their health system is severely hindered and could cost many individuals their lives. Many of the forty-four deported migrants showed symptoms prior to boarding their flights. Knowingly spreading the virus to an incapacitated region, is not only unethical, but a careless way to attempt to reduce the number of confirmed cases in the US by expelling migrants.

Engagement Resources

  • The National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.
  • Border Network for Human Rights: network to engage education, organization and participation of border communities to defend human rights and work towards a society where everyone is equal in rights and dignity.
  • World Health Organization: the WHO provides updated information surrounding COVID-19 and global responses
  • Center for Disease Control: the CDC provides updated information surrounding COVID-19 and the US responses
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