Trump says he has ‘safe third country’ migration deal with Guatemala

Trump says he has 'safe third country' migration deal with Guatemala

WASHINGTON – After months of negotiations and threats, President Donald Trump said Friday he has reached a “safe third country” agreement with Guatemala designed to reduce the number of migrants claiming asylum in the United States.

If the agreement takes effect – there could be legal challenges – migrants who cross into Guatemala en route to the United States would have to apply for asylum there instead of the U.S. And the U.S. could also deport migrants to Guatemala under those circumstances.

“We’ve long been working with Guatemala and now we can do it the right way,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, where he signed the agreement with Guatemalan minister Enrique Degenhart. 

The U.S. also has a safe third country agreement with Canada that took effect in 2004.

Trump’s announcement came less than a week after he threatened economic sanctions on Guatemala for walking away from a similar deal.

There is some question as to whether Guatemala can put the agreement into effect. The Constitutional Court of Guatemala had blocked President Jimmy Morales from signing the agreement, saying he must first get approval from the nation’s legislature.

The constitutional uncertainty had caused Morales to cancel a July 15 trip to Washington to discuss the third country agreement with Trump.

On Tuesday, Trump tweeted that Guatemala had “decided to break the deal they had with us,” and threatened sanctions that included a ban on travel to the country from the United States.

The third country agreement would affect many. Migrants from Central American countries like El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua would likely have to go through Guatemala before reaching Mexico en route to the United States.

“This landmark agreement will put the coyotes and smugglers out of business,” Trump said. “These are bad people.” 

Trump also said he is expanding a visa program to allow more temporary agricultural workers from Guatemala into the United States.

“We are going to make that a much easier, less cumbersome program,” Trump said.

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