- The Washington Times - Friday, March 6, 2020

House Democrats announced Friday they’ve launched an investigation into the State Department’s role in striking deals with Central American countries that have helped stem illegal immigration, saying the agreements might violate U.S. law.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot L. Engel and several subcommittee chairs said asylum-seekers deserve protections in the U.S., and the deals that allow Homeland Security to send some asylum-seekers to other countries they crossed through en route to the U.S. is a slap to the migrants.

The U.S. struck a deal last year with Guatemala, and is working on agreements with El Salvador and Honduras.

Under the Guatemala deal nearly 700 people have been sent back to that country.

But Mr. Engel and his colleagues said few of them have actually applied for protection in Guatemala. He said that’s proof they’re not getting the protections they need.

Homeland Security officials have said people who don’t follow through on applications after they’re pushed back across the border often realized they don’t have a valid claim and, once denied the illegal foothold in the U.S. that they were seeking, they give up and go home.

The Trump administration put pressure on the Central American governments by suspending foreign aid money.

The flow of money was restored after those countries agreed to do more to stem the tide of their own citizens fleeing north, and of the wave of migrants from elsewhere who are crossing their territory to reach the U.S.

Administration officials say true asylum-seekers should apply in the first safe country they reach after leaving home. Those that don’t, and instead continue to the U.S., are more likely to be normal illegal immigrants coming for jobs or to reunite with family.

Mr. Engel and his colleagues, in their letter, said those migrants deserve a chance to make their case here.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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