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US and Guatemala sign asylum deal that critics call cruel, unlawful

The United States and Guatemala have signed a controversial asylum agreement that will force any migrants traveling through the Central American country en route to the US to claim asylum there, a move that critics say is cruel and unlawful.

US President Donald Trump announced Friday that Guatemala has signed the so-called “safe third country” agreement.

The “safe third country” agreement would require Central American migrants, including those from El Salvador and Honduras, who cross into Guatemala on their way to the US to apply for protections in Guatemala instead of at the US-Mexico border.

The controversial deal, which critics say is illegal and immoral, is sure to face legal challenges in the US and Guatemala.

Refugees International, an immigrant rights advocacy group based in Washington, condemned the agreement as a violation of US law and declared Guatemala unsafe for migrants.

The agreement with “is very alarming” because Guatemala “is in no way safe for refugees and asylum seekers, and all the strong-arming in the world won’t make it so,” Refugees International President Eric Schwartz said in a statement Friday.

The agreement “violates US law and will put some of the most vulnerable people in Central America in grave danger,” he added. “It would make a mockery of the notion that those fleeing persecution in Central America have any recourse.”

Trump had publicly pressured Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales to sign the deal, threatening tariffs against the impoverished nation after Morales was forced to back out of signing a similar deal last week because of domestic political pressure and legal challenges.

Trump has long expressed frustration with Mexico and Central American countries over their failure to halt migration to the US.

Trump has made his hard-line stance on immigration an integral part of his presidency and has promised to build a wall along the US-Mexican border to curb the flow of migrants from Mexico and Central America.

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