Published: Sat, July 27, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Guatemala document says US migration deal to last 2 years

Guatemala document says US migration deal to last 2 years

Under the deal, migrants from Honduras and El Salvador who pass through Guatemala would be required to stop and seek asylum there first.

But refugee and human rights groups say such an agreement imperils migrants, given Guatemala's unsafe crime rate and gang violence and lack of a proper asylum system.

"Simply put, Guatemala is not a safe country for refugees and asylum seekers, as the law requires", said House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel, adding that he expects the "counterproductive" deal to be challenged in the courts.

Trump added that U.S. will be signing similar safe-third agreements with other countries soon.

But the country's Constitutional Court ruled he could not sign such an agreement without prior approval from Congress, which is on a summer recess.

Mr. Trump has long expressed frustration with Central American countries and their failure to halt migration to the US, and is regularly looking for new ways to keep his campaign promise of securing the border.

"We have other great countries who are going to be signing on also", he said, without providing further details.

"They're doing what we've asked them to do", Trump told reporters, calling Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales a "terrific guy". "Even as the federal government fought to keep its asylum ban policy in place, it presented NO EVIDENCE to the court of the existence of an asylum system in Guatemala at all", he added in another tweet.

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The agreement comes days after Trump threatened tough retaliation against the small Central American country if it did not sign on to an asylum deal - threatening a travel ban, tariffs, remittance fees or "all of the above".

If they don't and they apply for asylum in the US, they will face deportation to Guatemala, according to McAleenan.

"We expect that to continue", he said.

Trump wants new layers of insulation to discourage asylum-seekers from trekking northward through Mexico, a unsafe journey that exposes migrants to sexual assault, human traffickers and overtures from drug cartels.

It does not call the agreement "safe third country" but "Cooperation Agreement for the Assessment of Protection Requests". "We have always been working with Guatemala and now we can do it the right way".

Mr Trump said he abandoned the tariffs when Mexico agreed to strengthen patrols on the border. The impact could be huge, because most migrants from Central America, South America, Africa, and Asia travel through Guatemala, as it occupies the full width of the land bridge between Mexico and South America.

Out of 259 asylum applications that Guatemala received previous year, not a single application was approved, according to the Washington Post. Refugees International President Eric Schwartz condemned the announcement as in violation of US law and declared Guatemala unsafe for migrants. "If they do instead, in the hands of smugglers, make a journey all the way to the US border, they would be removable back to Guatemala".

The State Department is following through on an order from Trump and cutting $550 million in aid to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, also known as the Northern Triangle.

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