Immigration Law

Trump announces deal allowing ouster of asylum-seekers to Guatemala

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President Donald Trump announced Friday that he had reached an agreement with Guatemala to allow asylum-seekers who passed through the country to be returned there to seek asylum.

Asylum-seekers can’t ask the United State for asylum if they passed through Guatemala unless they applied there first, report the New York Times, Politico and the Washington Post. Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan said the deal is a “safe-third-country” agreement that designates Guatemala as a safe place to live.

Critics had criticized the Trump administration earlier this month for requiring applicants at the southern border to apply first for asylum in other countries that they traversed, even though the United States hadn’t negotiated a “safe-third-country” agreement with those countries. That requirement was blocked by a federal judge last week.

At the time, Canada was the only country that had a “safe-third-country” agreement with the United States.

McAleenan said the new deal would be “up and running” by August.

The U.S. State Department has said murder is common in Guatemala, and police are ineffective. McAleenan said the whole country should not be labeled unsafe.

Guatemala President Jimmy Morales is not calling the deal a “safe-third-country” agreement. Avoiding that phrase may be an attempt to avoid a ruling by Guatemala’s constitutional court that barred Morales from signing such a deal without approval from lawmakers, according to the New York Times.

Guatemala Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart said the court ruling was “provisional” during a White House event Friday. McAleenan told reporters that Guatemalan leaders think they “can work this through consistent with their legal regime and the constitutional court oversight.”

Spanish text of the deal released by the Guatemalan government calls the deal a “cooperative agreement regarding the examination of protection claims.”

Trump had threatened to impose a travel ban and tariffs if Guatemala did not agree to the deal.

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