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U.S.-Guatemala Agreement Disregards People’s Rights and Safety

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following a series of tweets from U.S. President Donald J. Trump threatening tariffs and other economic penalties, Guatemala and the U.S. signed a controversial agreement that would require anyone seeking protection in the U.S. who crossed through Guatemala to request asylum in Guatemala.

The agreement is part of a larger effort by the Trump administration to deter asylum-seeking families from ever reaching the U.S. border with Mexico. Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales’s action came one day after more than a dozen human and legal rights experts and organizations wrote to Morales, urging him to reject the deal, citing inherent dangers to migrants and multiple rights violations. Last week, the Guatemalan Constitutional Court issued an injunction against the agreement. Morales’s action also comes just three weeks ahead of the Guatemalan presidential election.

In response to the now-signed agreement, Michelle Brané, Director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, issued the following statement:

“This agreement is morally wrong and bad policy. History has taught us that agreements based on the safe third country concept do not work, have high political and financial costs, and, most importantly, devastating humanitarian consequences. Most critically, Guatemala cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered a safe or viable option for asylum seekers.

The agreement is legally questionable from every angle. There is no legal requirement for refugees to seek protection in the first country they arrive to. Furthermore, both governments sidestepped their national Congress and existing law. President Morales even contravened a ruling of Guatemala’s highest court.

“President Trump is taking his attack on migrant and asylum-seeking families far beyond our own border. President Morales now stands complicit in one of the most concerning human rights crises in modern U.S. history.

Seeking asylum is a legal right. It is unacceptable to deny people international protection and morally abhorrent to demand that they stay in situations where they are at risk of violence, insecurity, and human and additional rights violations.”