Senator reveals U.S. immigration agents rented unmarked vans in Guatemala to haul migrant families back to Guatemala-Honduras border
Ranking Member Menendez calls on Inspectors General to investigate how DHS misused State Department funds, violated a written agreement between the two departments, tried to hide the existence of the operation, and caused the State Department to provide misleading information to Congress
WASHINGTON – The Senate Foreign Relations Committee Democratic staff today released a report commissioned by Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) uncovering a reckless immigration enforcement operation in Guatemala involving Trump Administration officials. The report details how Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents in Guatemala misused State Department funding to rent unmarked vans and contract local drivers to pick up migrants in Guatemala and transport them back to the Guatemala-Honduras border. The January 2020 operation violated an agreement between the State Department and DHS, lacked essential security and safety protocols, may have separated migrants families and children, and exported the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant agenda of refusing to provide screenings for individuals seeking international protection.
“This explosive report is a painful reminder of how President Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda has overtaken every aspect of this administration’s work. Blurring the lines between the work of our nation’s professional diplomatic corps and that of domestic immigration enforcement agents is corrosive and wholly unacceptable,” Senator Menendez said. “Months before the Trump administration used similar tactics against peaceful protestors in Portland, Oregon, we now know that DHS secretly used State Department funding to rent unmarked vans in Guatemala to haul migrants back to the Guatemala-Honduras border.”
Entitled “DHS Run Amok? A Reckless Overseas Operation, Violations, and Lies,” the report captures how the Trump administration’s focus on curbing irregular migration has undermined the State Department and facilitated DHS’ assumption of unprecedented influence over foreign policy towards Central America. It reveals how DHS personnel misused State Department funding, violated the terms of an interagency agreement, and initially attempted to cover up the operation’s existence by providing false information.
“The Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection are not authorized to act as un-deputized international migration police throughout Latin America. Congress must once again step in to serve as a check on this President’s unhinged anti-immigrant agenda,” Senator Menendez concluded.
Menendez followed the report’s publication with a formal request for the State Department and DHS Inspectors General to immediately open an investigation into the operation.
The report includes the following key findings:
· DHS violated its interagency agreement with the State Department that explicitly prohibited DHS from conducting migration operations with INL funding.
· DHS lied to the State Department about how it misused INL funding and caused the State Department to transmit misleading information to Congress.
· DHS’ improvised operation lacked protocols related to security, personal safety, human rights, and the screening of migrants for international protection.
· DHS unnecessarily exposed the U.S. Government to potential legal and financial liabilities.
Click HERE for “DHS Run Amok? A Reckless Overseas Operation, Violations, and Lies.”
Click HERE for Ranking Member Menendez’s letter to the Inspectors General.