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Attorney General William Tong

12/27/2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL TONG JOINS MULTISTATE EFFORT TO PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF ASYLUM-SEEKERS

Attorney General William Tong joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general, led by California, in filing a comment letter to the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to protect the rights of asylum-seekers from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. The letter opposes a new Trump Administration interim rule that will allow DOJ and DHS to remove asylum-seekers to countries where they face continued violence and persecution, and where inadequate justice systems cannot protect them.

Under the interim rule, which went into effect in November 2019, migrants from those countries who come to the United States seeking asylum can be forced away to other countries that have signed cooperative agreements with the federal government.

For example, a Honduran migrant seeking safety from persecution by paramilitary gangs could be denied assistance in the United States – and instead sent involuntarily to Guatemala, where the same gangs are rampant and where there is no meaningful asylum system. The new rule violates federal law and treaty agreements that embody our core commitment to safe and humanitarian treatment of people fleeing violence and persecution.

"Giving asylum seekers a safe haven from persecution has always been a core value of our country. The interim rule abandons this basic principle and bars countless vulnerable individuals from seeking protection here in the United States," said Attorney General Tong. "Connecticut thrives because we welcome immigrants who seek to build a better life for themselves, their families and future generations. We will continue to fight this latest attack on the asylum system and protect asylum-seekers' rights."

The federal government has announced cooperative agreements with Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Only the agreement with Guatemala is currently in effect.

But, as the comment letter states, Guatemala is utterly unprepared to receive asylum seekers from the United States. There are only 12 officials working on asylum cases in the entire country, and only three of them are tasked with interviewing applicants. The comment letter argues that U.S. law does not allow asylum-seekers to be sent to an unsafe and unprepared third country.

The comment letter also notes that the interim rule provides no safeguards against family separation. The rule has no requirement that families who arrived together in the United States be removed to seek asylum in the same country, raising the specter of additional trauma that could have significant health consequences for families and children.

In submitting the comment letter, Attorney General Tong joins the attorneys general of California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the comment letter is available here.
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