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Deal With El Salvador Aims To Stem Flow Of Migrants Into U.S.


The Trump administration has signed a sweeping asylum agreement with El Salvador. The deal could allow the U.S. to reject migrants seeking asylum in this country and instead send them to the Central American country to seek protection there. Emily Green reports from El Salvador.

EMILY GREEN, BYLINE: Most people here haven't yet heard of the agreement, but President Nayib Bukele enjoys sky-high approval ratings. And people like 23-year-old Juan Antonio (ph) were poised to support the deal, even though they said they didn't know what it meant.

JUAN ANTONIO: (Speaking Spanish).

GREEN: He said the deal with the U.S. seems like a good idea. Bukele is doing an excellent job. But critics know El Salvador has one of the highest murder rates in the world and can't protect its own people, much less thousands of asylum-seekers. Oscar Chacon, director of Alianza Americas, says these and other agreements are victories for President Trump's hardline immigration agenda.

OSCAR CHACON: This agreement for all practical purposes is precisely an extension of the U.S. border so that these countries become the first filters to deal with migration.

GREEN: But El Salvador's foreign minister Alexandra Hill Tinoco characterized the agreement in positive terms, one that she says would benefit El Salvador long-term. The terms of the deal still haven't been released. But Hill Tinoco also indicated that the U.S. would increase economic aid to El Salvador and also provide more support to fight the gangs.

ALEXANDRA HILL TINOCO: The main issue is to protect our people that are forced to flee the country. We are talking about giving them secure alternatives and finding and increasing legal alternatives to safe migration. This is what this general memorandum of agreement contains.

GREEN: Hill Tinoco also suggested that U.S. officials may back down on efforts to deport some 200,000 Salvadorans living in the U.S. with temporary protected status. For NPR News, I'm Emily Green in San Salvador. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.