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U.S. to send some Mexican asylum seekers to Guatemala

The Department of Homeland Security confirms that certain Mexicans seeking humanitarian protection can be transferred to the Central American nation.
Image: Migrants are loaded onto a bus by Border Patrol agents in El Paso, Texas, on June 1, 2019.
Migrants are loaded onto a bus by Border Patrol agents in El Paso, Texas, on June 1, 2019.Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

Some Mexicans seeking asylum in the United States will be sent to Guatemala as part of a bilateral agreement, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed Monday.

"Certain Mexicans seeking humanitarian protections in the United States may now be eligible to be transferred to Guatemala and given the opportunity to seek protection there, under the terms of the Guatemala Asylum Cooperative Agreement," a spokesperson for the agency said in a statement to NBC News.

Emails detailing the implementation of the plan were sent to asylum officials in recent days, as first reported by BuzzFeed News.

The emails said Mexican nationals would be included in the populations "amenable" to the agreement with Guatemala.

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The agreement, which was brokered in July between the Trump administration and the outgoing Guatemalan government, allows U.S. immigration officials to send migrants requesting asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border to apply for protection in Guatemala, instead.

The administration made similar deals with Honduras and El Salvador last year.

Critics of the agreements have said migrants could be further endangered if they are sent to violence-plagued Central American countries, while others with valid asylum claims could be keep out.

They have also said the countries do not have the capacity in their asylum systems to take on the migrants' claims.

Mexico's Foreign Ministry said Monday night it disagreed with the policy, adding it could impact around 900 asylum applicants as of February.

The foreign ministry said Mexico would work local and state authorities to "offer better options to Mexicans who could be affected by this provision."

The statement said the foreign ministry would continue to monitor "the fulfillment of human rights contemplated in the international agreements signed and ratified by both Mexico and the United States."