“Safe Third Country Agreement” Signed By Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales
This agreement is the result of Trump’s on going attempt to reduce the flow of immigrants into the U.S. and its broader plan to make most migrants ineligible for asylum. This evidence can be found in the administration’s previous ruling such as the one that prohibits migrants from seeking asylum after having travelled through a third country en route to the U.S. Though, Federal Judge Jon Tigar blocked this rule last week.
One serious concern that has many critics disqualifying such agreement is that under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, migrants have the right to apply for asylum in the U.S. However, if a “third safe country agreement” exists, the U.S. can send these asylum seekers to another country under the assurance that safety and basic needs will be provided for asylum seekers.
Guatemala is simply not a safe country, thus disqualifying the country as a “safe third country.” As of today, Guatemala is one of the most dangerous countries in the world with high murder rates, according to the U.S. State Department’s Oversees Security Advisory Council. Also, in the first nine months of fiscal year 2019, there were 236,000 Guatemalan nationals apprehended at the U.S. southern border. This clearly demonstrates that the country is unable to provide for its own citizens whom rather migrate to the U.S.
On top of Guatemala being an unsafe place, the country does not posses an adequate asylum system. For the 2018 fiscal year, Guatemala received 257 asylum applications, of which only a few were accepted, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
It is presumed that Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales signed the agreement in secrecy because of the widespread opposition he received a few days ago from the population. Also, Morales is currently being investigated for illicit financing of his presidential campaign, which the Trump Administration has turned a blind eye to. Jimmy called the accord as a cooperation agreement to avoid the “safe third country agreement.” In return for the agreement, Guatemala received an unclear increase for agricultural visas for Guatemalan nationals.
It is unclear how both countries will implement the agreement. However, serious of devastating consequences might deepen the Central American country that already suffers from high levels of poverty, instability and violence and that as a result already contributes to the high number of immigrants arriving at the southern U.S. border.
Joshua Ojeda Sanchez