Source says US, El Salvador to sign asylum deal

NEW YORK — The U.S. planned to sign an agreement on Friday to help make one of Central America's most violent countries, El Salvador, a haven for migrants seeking asylum, according to a senior Trump administration official.

The official said acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan would sign a "cooperative asylum agreement."

The agreement could lead to migrants from third countries obtaining refuge in El Salvador even though many Salvadorans are fleeing their nation and seeking asylum in the United States. A Salvadoran delegation has been in the U.S. this week discussing the matter.

It's the latest effort by President Donald Trump's administration to force asylum-seekers in Central America to seek refuge outside the United States. Immigration officials also are forcing more than 42,000 people to remain in Mexico as their cases play out and have changed policy to deny asylum to anyone who transited through a third country en route to the southern border of the U.S.

The senior administration official wasn't authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

The agreement would be another step by the Trump administration aimed at stopping the flow of migrants coming into the United States. McAleenan also signed a so-called "safe third country" agreement with Guatemala, but officials in that country are still working out how it would be implemented.

The Trump administration this year threatened to withhold all federal assistance to three Central American countries unless they did more to end the migrant crisis. The move was met by stiff resistance in Congress as experts had said that the cuts would likely only exacerbate the number of migrants seeking to make the hazardous journey to the U.S. because of a further lack of resources.

Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo and Zeke Miller contributed to this report from Washington.

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