Significant progress has reportedly been made by President Donald Trump in his fight to curb illegal immigration.
The White House unexpectedly summoned reporters to the Oval Office Friday to announce that Guatemala has entered into a “safe third country” agreement with the United States.
According to the terms of the agreement, migrants crossing into Guatemala en route to the U.S., including those originating in Honduras and El Salvador, will now be required to seek asylum protections in Guatemala rather than at our southern border.
Any migrants found to have violated this requirement and who are apprehended in the U.S. will be subject to deportation to Guatemala, regardless of where their journey began.
The president hailed the move as a “landmark agreement” that will help curtail the illegal operations of coyotes and human smugglers who prey on vulnerable would-be migrants.
Obstacles along the way
This agreement has been in the works for some time now, but there were a series of substantial hurdles along the way.
A few weeks back, Guatemalan president, Jimmy Morales, canceled a scheduled meeting with President Trump to negotiate terms of a potential agreement,” citing the fact that his country’s high court had yet to rule on related legal questions. “Due to speculation and legal proceedings admitted for processing to the Constitutional Court, a decision was made to reschedule the bilateral meeting until we know what was resolved by said court,” a statement from his office read.
The Constitutional Court ultimately blocked the Guatemalan president from entering into this type of “safe third country” agreement with the U.S., indicating that approval from that country’s congress would be necessary for ratification of such an arrangement.
Ending the impasse
On Tuesday, President Trump, not happy with the continued lack of movement from the Guatemalan side, offered some harsh words for its leaders. “Guatemala . . . has decided to break the deal they had with us on signing a necessary Safe Third Agreement,” he tweeted. “We were ready to go. Guatemala has not been good.”
Wednesday, Trump threatened the possibility of tariffs on Guatemalan goods entering the United States, something which could have a devastating impact on that nation’s economy.
Reportedly under pressure from business and industry leaders in his home country and with assurances that a provision within the agreement would ease the path for Guatemalans hoping to come to the U.S. as farm workers, President Morales agreed in the end to make a deal with Trump.
While the announced agreement is certainly an encouraging step toward addressing the largely unchecked influx of migrants at the southern border, the aforementioned ruling from Guatemala’s Constitutional Court leaves considerable uncertaintly as to whether the pact is legal or can actually be implemented.