When Deportation Is A Death Sentence

Dara Lind parses a new report from Human Rights Watch on the plight of Hondurans who came to the US illegally to escape gang violence, got deported, and are now in grave danger back in their home country:

The Hondurans interviewed in the report fled Honduras because their lives had explicitly been threatened — mostly by gangs. One man had been shot in the back repeatedly by a gang initiate, and had to spend two months in the hospital and relearn how to walk. Even though he’d initially been targeted at random — the initiate was told to kill the next person he saw — he found out after he recovered that the initiate was now obligated to track him down and finish the job. Another man had sent his wife and son to the US after gang members tried to kidnap his son, then left on his own once he heard they were safe. And at least two of the 25 deportees had fled the country after they watched their mothers killed by gang members — knowing that witnesses of gang murders aren’t allowed to live.

Now that they’ve been returned to Honduras, their only priority is to make sure the gang members looking for them don’t know they’re back in the country. And because gangs are so powerful, and the government provides no protection, that means making sure no one knows they’re back in the country. Deported Hondurans hiding from gang violence can’t work, stay in their homes, or even see their children.

Caitlin Dickson focuses on what the report has to say about our asylum process – none of it good:

The report explains that there are two stages asylum-seekers must go through when apprehended at the border. First, a CBP agent must flag them for a “reasonable fear” assessment. In the second stage, an asylum officer from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will meet with them to determine whether they have a credible fear of returning home and whether they have a good chance of being granted asylum in immigration court. According to 2011 and 2012 CBP deportation data obtained by HRW, at least 80 percent of Hondurans detained at the border are placed in expedited removal proceedings while only 1.9 percent are flagged for credible fear assessments.

Comparatively, during those same years CBP flagged 21 percent of migrants from other countries for credible fear interviews. These statistics, plus the anecdotal evidence collected through more recent interviews, lead HRW to argue that “the U.S. is violating its international human rights obligations to examine asylum claims before returning [asylum seekers] to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened.”