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Honduras Pilot Initiative: A Conspiracy To Deprive Hondurans Right To Seek Asylum

 

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Houston Consul General of Honduras Supervisory Immigration Enforcement Agent James R. Donaldson working together on an ICE deportation flight

The Honduras Pilot Initiative (HPI) is an arrangement between the Honduran and U.S. Government to expedite the expedited removal process from weeks to days for Honduran citizens, according to documents ICE released pursuant to one of our office’s Freedom of Information Requests (FOIA).

One of the benefits of this super-expedited deportation program is to deport Hondurans so fast that they never get a chance to hire or consult with an attorney, as is illustrated on page 26-27 on ICE’s release:

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ICE boasts that the reduction in time that an individual is in ICE custody leads to a reduced possibility that an individual can contact or consult with an immigration attorney. The adjective of “unscrupulous” is superfluous because the reduced ICE detention time applies to all immigration lawyers, not just the unscrupulous ones.

The intent of ICE is further corroborated by the last two bullet points: if the detained individual’s family or friends hired an attorney to help them, an attorney must find out where their client is located prior to being able to communicate with the client.

For example, if an individual is transferred to an ICE detention center on a Friday and  their deportation flight is scheduled for the following Monday or Tuesday, that individual will likely be deported regardless of whether they were able to  hire a lawyer. The inability of a detained individuals’ lawyer or family to locate them while in CBP custody leaves them with less than 4 days to hire a lawyer or for their lawyer to locate them and send a credible or reasonable fear request to the proper ICE official, as the following slide demonstrates:

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To double down on this, the last bullet point brags that HPI effectively renders thousands of Hondurans completely incommunicado with no ability no phone access prior to the government of Honduras’ issuance of travel documents. ICE cannot deport an immigrant unless the  immigrant’s native country issues travel documents.

With the pilot initiative, Honduras’ government gives the green light for their nationals’ deportation before they even dry off after crossing the Rio Grande:

According to talking points on the HPI, “Via the Honduran Pilot Initative (HPI) , the government of Honduras agreed to interview up to 100 aliens per day , while in the Office of Border Patrol Custody,  and issue travel documents the same day…:

“In FY 2014, via the Honduras Pilot Initiative, consular officials conducted 16,658 consular interviews, and issued 16,327 travel documents.”

The powerpoint slide indicates that at some point during FY 2014, there were 18,190 travel document requests pursuant to the HPI. The total number of travel document requests via HPI for FY 2014 and FY 2013 was 21,684. Thus, the date of that the slides were made appears to be based on data towards the end of FY 2014. The Honduran government issued travel documents in close to 99% of nationals it interviewed under HPI. Therefore, approximately 85% ( 15,037 removed out of 18,000 travel documents issued) of Hondurans subject to HPI were deported from the US within a matter of days.

Those remaining 3000 who were not deported under HPI may have had the luck to communicate their fear or return to Honduras (whether through counsel or by themselves) to an official in ICE to automatically trigger a stay of removal pending the outcome of their credible fear interview.

The number of Hondurans ICE deported in 2014 was approximately 41,000, meaning that the HPI accounted for more than one third of all Honduran deportations in FY 2014.

El Salvador: Unwilling to Enter Conspiracy With the U.S. to Deprive Its Citizens Right to Apply for Asylum

El Salvador, unlike Honduras, appears to largely rejected US requests to enter into an agreement to expedite the expedited deportation process for its own nationals:

In June 19, 2013 ICE initiated discussion with the Government of El Salvador (GOES) demonstrating proven efficiencies gained through cooperative partnership with the GOG and GOH in response to the surge of their nationals arrested in the RGV. ICE asked the GOES to consider this option as a way to reduce TD processing times and was offered to collocate with the GOG sub consulate in McAllen, TX but the proposal was refused

However, the Salvadoran government did temporarily work with the US to expedite travel documents for 2 months in FY 2014: “During the two months of participation in FY 2014, the El Salvador Initiative conducted 1540 consular interviews, and issued 1129 travel documents.” The number of travel documents issued pales in comparison with that of Honduras and Guatemala.

The Honduran government’s cooperation in HPI resulted in a startling low number of Honduran nationals requesting credible or reasonable fear interviews.

The following numbers were derived from statistics provided by USCIS on fear interviews and and CBP’s national security reports for FY 2014 and FY 2015. I have excluded family unit and unaccompanied minor apprehensions from the calculation given that neither is subject to the Honduran Pilot Iniative.

In FY 2014, CBP apprehended 38,736 Hondurans at the Southwest border. In the same time period, 9,800 Hondurans nationals requested either a credible or reasoanble fear interview. Thus, only 25% of  Hondurans apprehended at the southwest border formally expressed a  fear of returning to their native country.

In FY 2014, Cbp apprehended 35,401 Salvadorans at the Southwest border. In the same time, 21,185 Salvadorans formally expressed a fear of return to their native country. Thus, 60% of Salvadorans apprehended at the Southwest border formally requested a fear interview.

The Honduran government should work for the best interests of its people. If the Honduran government cannot or will not protect its nationals from widespread and severe violence then it should afford them the right to seek safety abroad, including in the United States.

But instead, Honduras’ leaders  are willing participants in a conspiracy with the Obama administration, the Honduras Pilot Initiative, to deprive thousands of Hondurans of their right to seek asylum in the United States.

 

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