Trump announces ‘safe third country’ plan with Guatemala in deal that will keep asylum-seeking migrants from trekking north through Mexico to the United States
- Deal will allow the U.S. to refuse asylum to Hondurans and Salvadorans unless they first apply in Guatemala
- U.S. already has a ‘safe third country’ agreement with Canada to the north
- President watched in the Oval Office as U.S. and Guatemalan officials signed the new agreement
- Trump had threatened to slap new tariffs on Guatemala if they didn’t agree
President Donald Trump inked an agreement Friday with Guatemala to designate the Central American nation as a ‘safe third country’ that will take in many asylum seekers who would otherwise stream toward the United States.
Practically, it means the U.S. will deny asylum requests of Hondurans and Salvadorans who reach American soil unless they have already unsuccessfully applied for asylum in Guatemala.
Trump had threatened to impose punishing new tariffs on Guatemalan imports if it did not agree to the deal.
He has made restricting migration a cornerstone of his presidency and re-election campaign.
President Donald Trump spoke to the news media in the Oval Office after Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan (2nd left) and Guatemalan Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart signed a new asylum agreement
To seek asylum in the U.S., Central American nationals like El Salvador and Honduras need to first pass through Guatemala; the new agreement requires them to apply for asylum there, instead of in the U.S.
Central American migrants are pictured in a caravan headed to the U.S. in April
The president blasted Democrats in Congress, saying he has had ‘absolutely no cooperation’ from them in his quest to strengthen the border.
‘They won’t do it. All they want to do is impedem’ he said.
Trump wants new layers of insulation to discourage asylum-seekers from trekking northward through Mexico, a dangerous journey that exposes migrants to sexual assault, human traffickers and overtures from drug cartels.
The president has pushed Guatemala, Mexico and other countries in the region to act as buffer zones, sparing the overwhelmed southern U.S. border from wave after wave of Central American migrants.
Negotiations over a potential deal abruptly ended earlier this month when Guatemala’s Constitutional Court ordered President Jimmy Morales to back away from the agreement with his U.S. counterpart.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan and Guatemalan Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart signed the asylum agreement in the Oval Office.
Trump blasted Democrats, saying they have been no help at all as he negotiates immigration deals
Trump said this week that he was considering imposing tariffs on Guatemala, and taxing remittances sent back home by Guatemalans living in the U.S.
McAleenan told reporters the point of the agreement was to ‘take the power away from the criminal organizations that are exploiting these vulnerable migrants.’
Under the deal, he said, Hondurans and Salvadorans who arrive in Guatemala will be ‘in a country that has a fair proceeding for assessing asylum claims. And that’s where they should make that claim.’
‘If they arrive in the U.S. not having availed themselves of that opportunity, they’ll be returned to Guatemala,’ he said.
Degenhart acknowledged that his country had not been acting in accord with international norms.
‘We are clear that we have to make changes, and the way to do it is working together with our best ally,’ he said.