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United States and El Salvador sign "safe" third country agreement

  1. Date Announced

    Sept. 20, 2019

    United States and El Salvador sign a "safe" third country agreement to transfer asylum seekers to El Salvador. According to U.S. officials cited in news reports, the policy, signed by Acting Secretary McAleenan, applies to individuals who passed through El Salvador en route to the United States (see commentary).

    [ID #104]

    See Biden administration action below.

    View Policy Document
  3. Subsequent Action

    January 15, 2020

    On January 15, 2020, the ACLU, National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, and Human Rights First filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s policies that are resulting in asylum-seekers being sent to so-called “safe” third countries to apply for asylum rather than being allowed to file asylum claims in the U.S. Cross motions for summary judgment remain pending with the court as of Oct. 26, 2020.

    **Litigation is listed for informational purposes and is not comprehensive. For the current status of legal challenges, check other sources.**

    U.T. v. Barr
  4. Subsequent Action

    December 29, 2020

    DHS announces that Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras have all signed Asylum Cooperation Agreements (ACA) and that all three ACAs have entered into force. The agreements allow the United States to remove certain migrants seeking humanitarian protection to the ACA countries.

    DHS Announces Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras Have Signed Asylum Cooperation Agreement
  5. Biden Administration Action

    February 6, 2021

    This Biden administration policy revokes in its entirety the Trump-era policy identified in this entry.

    On Feb. 6, 2021, the State Department announced that the U.S. had suspended and initiated the process to terminate the asylum cooperative agreements with Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. According to the press release, the termination of these agreements will be effective only after the notice period stipulated in each of the agreements, but the suspension is effective immediately.

    DOS Suspends Asylum Cooperative Agreements with El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras
Type of Action: Agency Directive
Agencies Affected: DOJ USCIS CBP

Prior Policies

  • The United States and Canada signed a Safe Third Country Agreement on December 5, 2002, based on mutual acknowledgement of the international legal obligations of the Parties under the principle of non-refoulement set forth in the Convention and Protocol and recognition that both countries offer generous systems of refugee protection, recalling both countries’ traditions of assistance to refugees and displaced persons abroad.

    Safe Third Country Agreement between United States and Canada
  • Section 208(2)(A) establishes an exception to asylum and allows return to a "safe third country" only if: "the alien's life or freedom would not be threatened" and "the alien would have a full and fair procedure for determining a claim to asylum or equivalent temporary protection."

    8 U.S. Code § 1158

Subsequent Actions

Biden Administration Action


Trump administration reaches deal to send asylum seekers to El Salvador in an effort to deter migrants from entering the United States

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