The Guatemalan government announced today that it will block deportation flights from the U.S. to prevent the coronavirus from gaining a foothold in the central American nation, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In a press release, the Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that programs returning Guatemalans will be suspended as a precautionary measure as authorities “establish adequate sanitary protocols to transfer to their home communities.”
The statement also said that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials informed Guatemalan authorities that they would not deport any people to Guatemala who are showing signs of a potential COVID-19 infection.
The Guatemalan government has also extended temporary flight restrictions to foreign nationals from the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia, per the Times. Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei announced the closure of all borders for 15 days.
This new ban is likely to impact the Asylum Cooperative Agreement between the U.S. and Guatemala. This rule attempts to reduce the amount of asylum applications filed in the U.S. and only permits certain asylum-seekers to file for protections in Guatemala.
Guatemala has currently had six confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins’s interactive map, with one of those six cases being fatal.
Earlier this week, virus woes forced the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review to postpone hearings for “non-detained aliens” that fall between the dates of March 16 and April 10. On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against ICE asking for the release of detained immigrants in Tacoma, Wash., who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus infection.