Immigration Law

Questions Surround Secretive US-Guatemala Agreement

Susan Gzesh, July 30, 2019

"Less than two weeks after Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales abruptly cancelled a White House visit, President Donald Trump bullied his way to securing what the Trump administration is calling a “Safe Third Country” agreement with Guatemala. It is unclear, however, what the agreement signed on July 26 actually contains – and whether, if ever, it will take effect. ...

... Many experts have noted previously that Guatemala has almost no capacity to adjudicate applications for protection, nor is it safe territory for protection applicants to stay, the two basic requirements for a “Safe Third Country” agreement under U.S. law. This new agreement is certain to be challenged in U.S. courts. The Guatemalan courts have already declared that the agreement would not be valid under Guatemalan law without legislative approval. In addition to contemplating no limitation on the nationalities the U.S. might “transfer” to Guatemala under this agreement, it is also true that Guatemala has little, if any capacity, to deport persons who might be rejected from protection.

Whether this agreement embodies an intent to make Guatemala an American Nauru – a terrible jail for thousands who would seek asylum in the U.S. — is still unknown. Until the U.S. and Guatemala release official texts of the agreement and any side agreements, there are many more questions than answers. Members of the public in both countries, legislators, advocates for asylum applicants, and migrants seeking protection all deserve to know what the U.S. and Guatemala have planned."