We’ve heard at least half a dozen announcements about this over the past couple of months, but now it looks as if it will become official this week. The President is preparing to finalize a Safe Third Country agreement with Guatemalan President Morales. This is a complicated situation with plenty of moving parts, but if they’ve worked most of the obvious bugs out of the equation it might at least do something to slow the flow of migrant caravans heading for our borders. (ABC News)
President Trump and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales are expected to sign an agreement Monday that would require asylum seekers who transit through Guatemala to claim asylum in that country instead of the U.S., according to three sources briefed on negotiations.
The “safe third country agreement” is one of the ways in which Trump hopes to stem the flow of migrants from Central America to the U.S., but critics say Guatemala neither is safe enough for asylum seekers to stay there nor has the capability to process asylum claims.
The two leaders will meet at the White House on Monday and “will discuss ways to create a more robust relationship focused on addressing migration and security priorities,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement Friday.
Guatemala was an obvious choice in terms of picking a spot to make a stand against illegal immigration. It covers the majority of Mexico’s southern border and basically blocks the isthmus at that point. Of course, deciding to serve as a Safe Third Country doesn’t affect migrants coming from Guatemala (or Mexico for that matter), but it would apply to anyone traveling north from Honduras, El Salvador and points further south.
We would be remiss in not noting the problematic aspects of any such agreement with Guatemala, and that’s why we’ll need to wait and see the details of what’s been worked out. For starters, calling Guatemala a “safe” country in any context is a bit of a stretch. The country is rife with poverty and crime, with street gangs and drug cartels controlling a lot of territory, not to mention the government being rather prone to corruption (to put it mildly). Telling migrants to seek asylum there if they don’t have any local ties or security is going to be a challenge.
There’s also the question of whether or not the Guatemalan government really has the capacity to enforce this, or even intends to. They would obviously like to strike a deal with the United States involving a lot more foreign aid, but if they can’t deliver the results we need this might not be the most productive deal in history.
So what would President Trump be offering them? There’s been talk of a program where we (and possibly Mexico) could provide, money, food and other humanitarian relief resources for arriving migrants, as well as job development programs to allow them to make a life for themselves. But without additional law enforcement and security measures, turning Guatemala into an actual “safe” third country is going to be a major challenge to say the least.