Department of Homeland Security Accused of Illegal Activities in Guatemala

On October 13, 2020, the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States Senate released a Democratic Staff Report titled, DHS Run Amok? The report states that “in January 2020, Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Democratic Staff uncovered a disturbing incident in which DHS misused State Department funding to carry out an unauthorized operation.” The operation was the transportation of Honduran migrants “in unmarked vans to relocate them to the Guatemala-Honduras border.”

According to the report, DHS violated several agreements, protocols and “unnecessarily exposed the U.S. Government to potential legal and financial liabilities.” The agreement that DHS violated, according to the report, is an agreement with the Sate Department “that explicitly prohibited DHS from conducting operations with INL funding.

DHS Operated Illegally In Guatemala

The report details that in January 2020, DHS violated an agreement that prohibits “immigration or law enforcement operations” in Guatemala by U.S. immigration agents. DHS was in Guatemala to offer advise and training to Guatemalan officials.

The report says that Customs and Border Protection agents stationed in Guatemala as advisors actively participated within Guatemala in “preventing the migrant caravan from transiting Guatemala.” The report states “the United States paid for the buses,” used to transport the migrants from Guatemala to the Guatemala-Honduras border for deportation back to Honduras.

The report adds that “the deployment of CBP agents to the Guatemalan border for joint operations with” Guatemalan officials “constituted a direct violation of its interagency agreement with the State Department and one that exposed the U.S. Government to potential legal and financial liabilities.”

DHS First Denies And Then Admits To Violation

The Congressional report goes on to state that on January 22, DHS officials denied participating in the Guatemalan operation. They lied to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding their involvement in the incident.

However, on January 30, 2020, DHS officials acknowledged that the “information previously provided was not accurate.”

“In violation of the terms of its interagency agreement,” DHS acknowledged that it had used funds from 2017 “to conduct joint operations” with Guatemalan officials. They rented three 12-passanger vans and drivers to return Honduran immigrants back to the border.

On October 13, 2020, the chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Robert Menendez, released a letter asking that the Offices of the Inspector General at the State Department and DHS open an investigation into the January 2020 incident in Guatemala.

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