International Organizations Oppose DHS Incursion into Central America

Comunicado

For immediate release:

Contact: Alexis Stoumbelis, alexis@cispes.org, (202) 521-2510 ext. 205

On June 13, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) joined thirty human rights, religious, immigrant justice, refugee and solidarity organizations on a letter to sound the alarm over a recent Memorandum of Cooperation signed between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Guatemalan Minister of Government.

As the letter states, “Sending U.S. immigration enforcement officials to the Mexico-Guatemala border demonstrates that the United States is engaging in an impermissible effort to externalize its border and thereby circumvent its obligations towards asylum seekers… We are concerned about the effect that the presence of DHS officials in Guatemala may have on the rights of migrants and asylum seekers as well as their role in preventing migrants from crossing the Mexico-Guatemala border to seek protection in Mexico or, eventually, the United States. Individuals also have the right to seek protection in the country where they feel safe.”

While details of this memorandum have not been made public, any participation from DHS in the internal political or security affairs of another country is cause for grave concern, not only as a violation of national sovereignty but also given DHS' blatant disregard for human rights.

The letter notes that this Memorandum was signed in the context of the United States’ escalating war on migrants and refugees from Central America, starting, “Efforts by the Trump Administration to deter migration and to pressure governments of the region to prevent their citizens from leaving, in the case of Central America, or to pressure Mexico to stop migrants from reaching the United States, violate international law as they interfere with an individual’s rights to freedom of movement and to seek asylum.”

The Trump Administration, through threats and bullying, has ratcheted up U.S. efforts to treat other countries’ borders as its own. The U.S.-funded Southern Border Plan in Mexico, launched under the Obama Administration, has resulted in skyrocketing deportations, while in 2017, the U.S. Armed Forces' Southern Command announced support for joint military operations between Mexican and Guatemalan armed forces through a military base in Petén, Guatemala.

Concerns about DHS or any other U.S. law enforcement or security personnel operating in the region are not limited to the rights and safety of migrants and asylum seekers. Organized communities in Guatemala and throughout the region have repeatedly decried the militarization of their communities, which fuels criminalization of and violence towards people and communities who are defending land, water and natural resources against extractive industries or engaging in resistance to right-wing regimes, as is the case currently in Honduras, where state forces are violently repressing a national strike led by students, teachers, doctors and nurses.

“We will not be fooled by the Department of Homeland Security. These initiatives are nothing but a thinly-veiled excuse to increase U.S. security presence in Central America in order to protect the interests of the local elite, transnational corporations and to continue waging a racist, nationalistic war on migrants and refugees. Not only is it an outrageous violation of national sovereignty but it poses a true danger to social movements and to the people of Central America,” said Samantha Pineda, CISPES Program Director.

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