The Repatriation Process in Honduras and Arguments of Relocation in U.S. Immigration Hearings



The purpose of this article is to examine the Honduran repatriation process and how the government tracks its citizens. In immigration hearings, the U.S. government regularly asserts that respondents who are threatened by gangs can relocate to other areas of Honduras, obtain jobs, and function normally without detection. However, there are a number of mechanisms the Honduras government uses in order to know where its citizens live. Given that the Honduran bureaucracy has been compromised by officials under the pay of gangs or been infiltrated by gang members themselves, gangs can use these same databases to track persons of interest and continue to threaten them. It is highly probable, therefore, that no person can prevent gangs finding out where they live in the long term.

Repatriation Process:

When a Honduran is repatriated, they fall under local repatriation arrangements signed by both U.S. and Honduran government officials designed to strengthen the bilateral framework for the protection of Honduran citizens being returned to Honduras, improve the efficient use of limited resources, and increase coordination during the repatriation process. Before or during the repatriation, the Department of Homeland Security provides Honduras a list of the persons to be repatriated and pertinent information on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Form I-216. [1]

When individuals who have been convicted of criminal offenses are being repatriated through formal immigration proceedings, information added includes alias, convictions and dates, and time served. In addition, Salvadoran officials have web access to the U.S. Criminal History

Information Sharing (CHIS) which includes biometric information (photographs and fingerprints). DHS Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) stores fingerprints on behalf of DHS component agencies which can be readily accessed by Honduran authorities. Note that the CHIS applies to both criminal and non-criminal deportees. In a previous article, we examined the CHIS in more detail. [2]

Therefore, when a repatriated citizen is returned, Honduran authorities have a good deal of information on each person. This data is augmented by several necessary disclosures each returnee must do in order to move throughout the country, hold a job, or drive a vehicle.


Honduran citizens must have some sort of identification. Recent deportees can carry a U.S. identification such as a state drivers license. Nevertheless, U.S. identification are not accepted for most transactions. The El Registro Nacional de las Personas, or RNP as it is commonly known, is the most widely used form of identification in Honduras. It is essentially a voter registration card. One needs an RNP to open a bank account, to apply for a job, and for employment. Proof of address is required—a receipt of telephone, electricity, bank, school or other public or private services. The Honduran government plans to create a new RNP in 2020. All Hondurans will have to convert to the new RNP which will add security seals and a chip. It will also be a way for the Honduran government to obtain up to date addresses and data on all its citizens. [3]

Driver’s License:

Obtaining a driver’s license in Honduras is separate from the application for the RNP. Once approved to drive, the driver is put into a central database to monitor traffic-related activities. The driver's license must be renewed every year or allowed to renew for a maximum of 5 years. One year costs 150 lempiras up to five years for a cost of 600 lempiras. Most Hondurans drivers, because of the expense, renew yearly. Nevertheless, when renewed, a current address must be given. [4]

Medical Care:

The Honduran Institute of Social Security (IHSS) is the clearinghouse for medical care in Honduras. All employers who pay taxes must register their workers with the IHSS. If a person wants to be medically treated by State supported providers, they must be registered by their employer through the IHSS. If a Honduran is not registered with their employer, they are forced to pay for expensive private health care which gives both employers and employees a strong incentive to opt into the IHSS system. When the employer registers their employees, they provide names and known addresses of their employees to the IHSS [5]


Utility Companies

The Honduran national ENEE Empresa de Energia Electrica (recently changed to "EEH" Energia Electrica Honduras), like other utilities such as the telephone company, tracks those who pay for their services. They have a database of names and addresses of their customers and regularly update their customer lists in order to efficiently collect outstanding payments [6].


The point of this article is to show that repatriated Honduran citizens are effectively tracked by their government from documents and CHIS data given to it by U.S. authorities, to registering for national identification, driver licensure, medical insurance and utility usage. At each point, a residential address must be given. This information is stored by Honduran authorities which allows them to know the location of each of their citizens.

As noted earlier, during deportation hearings, respondents are regularly asked by the U.S. government about their ability to hide or find employment in other areas of Honduras and thus avoid gang detection. Unfortunately, Honduran law enforcement and government officials operate under the mandate of take a bribe or take a bullet in regard to gangs. This puts good police and government officials in fear of enforcing the law and corrupt ones with increased power that comes from association with the gangs. Gangs can co-opt government or law enforcement officials to obtain addresses or other information from persons of interest from government databases. There are also gang members that are members of the security forces and other government agencies that can compromise these databases.

This leaves repatriated Hondurans who fear gangs having to drop out of society in order to stay safe—meaning having no government identification, the ability to obtain good paying work, operate a motor vehicle, have health insurance or access to utilities such as electricity or telephone. Thus, for those repatriated Hondurans who want to reintegrate into society and lead normal lives, they leave themselves open to detection from the same gangs they fear.


[1] U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “Detainee Transfers,” December 2016, accessed at:

[2] Robert Kirkland and Duncan Breda, “The U.S. Criminal History Information Sharing Program and El Salvador’s Decree 717,” May 30, 2018, accessed at:

[4] For information on the Honduran driver’s license, see:

[6] Energia Electrica Honduras,

About The Author

Robert Kirkland is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and operational Latin American Foreign Area Officer. He has a B.S. from the United States Military Academy, West Point and a M.A. and Ph.D. in Latin American history from the University of Pittsburgh. He also has a graduate certificate in Latin American Studies from the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. He also helps guide students in Service Academy admissions as well as ROTC scholarships . He has provided expert testimony on drug cartel and gang violence in Mexico and Central America since his retirement from the Army in 2014. He can be reached at info@ or at his website .