What is the Protection Transfer Agreement?
The U.S. government created the Protection Transfer Agreement (PTA) in response to the high rates of immigration from the Northern Triangle, a region of Central America that includes El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, that began in 2014 and continues today. This area of the world has the highest murder rate of any country that is not at war, and has extremely high rates of kidnapping, extortion, sexual violence, and gang activity. As a result, thousands of natives have fled to neighboring countries and the U.S. seeking protection from the violence and threats.
Pursuant to the PTA program, the U.S. government will pre-screen applicants from this region and transfer those with the greatest vulnerabilities and needs to Costa Rica, where they can live in safety until the refugee process is complete and they can be resettled in the U.S. or another country. The program was designed to house 200 immigrants at one time for a six-month period. As of November, 2016, however, only one Salvadoran family had been relocated through the PTA program.
Immigration advocates criticize the PTA program for its strict qualifications, which aren’t always obviously stated, and long wait times in order to determine eligibility. Program officials have simply stated that they are building the program from the ground up in many respects, and that they expect to begin processing more applicants through the program as quickly as possible. Plus, while immigration advocates estimate that hundreds of applications can have been submitted to the PTA program, the State Department reports having received only about 60 applications.
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