Immigration courts in California and other states along the U.S.-Mexico border are likely to be extremely busy in the coming months. On Nov. 21, the Trump administration began the process of deporting thousands of migrants who sought asylum in the United States to Guatemala. The migrants are being deported under the provisions of a bilateral agreement that the White House negotiated with Guatemala in July. Similar agreements were brokered with El Salvador and Honduras in September. The agreements require Central American migrants to seek asylum in nearby countries instead of continuing on to the United States.
Before they are deported to Guatemala, migrants that U.S. Customs and Border Protection have determined are subject to the bilateral agreement are screened by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. To avoid deportation, migrants must convince USCIS officials that they would face persecution in Guatemala. The final removal orders are issued by immigration judges.
The White House says the measures are needed to prevent thousands of migrants who do not qualify for asylum from pouring across the U.S.-Mexico border each month, but immigrant advocacy groups have condemned the bilateral agreements as being heartless and cruel. These groups accuse the Trump administration of condemning migrants who have just escaped a desperate situation to conditions that may be just as bad or even worse. The United Nations Refugee Agency has voiced serious concerns over the deportation policy.
Migrants who seek asylum in the United States must be able to establish a credible fear of persecution that is based on their race, religion, national origin or political views. Attorneys with experience in asylum cases may help migrants gather evidence to establish a genuine and credible fear, and they may also explain the various alternative paths to residency in America to migrants who are unlikely to be granted asylum.