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Guatemala Is No Safe Third Country

Why the Asylum Deal Is a Mistake

Central American migrants cross the river between Mexico and Guatemala, October 2018 Reuters / Carlos Garcia Rawlins

On July 26, under pressure from Washington, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales signed a deal with U.S. President Donald Trump that would fundamentally alter the landscape of migration and asylum in the Americas. The deal, known as a “safe third country” agreement, stipulates that the U.S. government can deport asylum seekers to Guatemala if they passed through that country during their journey to the U.S.-Mexican border. The agreement serves Trump’s agenda of preventing asylum seekers from entering the United States—but it does so by shifting the burden onto Guatemala, making that country responsible for processing and caring for tens of thousands of asylum seekers.

The “safe third country” agreement will strain Guatemala’s asylum system and its already-struggling economy. Not surprisingly, it has met widespread opposition in Guatemala. The country’s Constitutional Court went so far as to impose a temporary injunction, which prevented the plan

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