Guatemala safe third country agreement is pretty much dead

Roughly one month ago, the White House announced that we were closing in on a safe third country agreement with Guatemala, scoring what was perceived as a major win on immigration for President Trump. At the time, we noted that there were several serious flaws in the plan which might prevent it from coming to fruition. One was the fact that the deal was being cut with a lame-duck president who was on his way out (Jimmy Morales) and we didn’t know who the next leader would be or what their view on the deal might look like. Also, constitutional questions were raised in that country because the legislature would need to approve any such agreement before it could be finalized.

Now the first question has at least been answered. The winner of the runoff election and incoming president (in January) is Alejandro Giammattei, and this week he declared that the safe third country agreement was not something he could support. Why? Because even he doesn’t believe that his own nation could be considered a safe third country. (Associated Press)

A Guatemalan immigration agreement signed with the Trump administration won’t work because the Central American nation does not have the resources, the country’s new president-elect says.

Alejandro Giammattei, a conservative who was chosen overwhelmingly by voters in a weekend runoff election, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday that Guatemala is too poor to tend to its own people, let alone those from other countries…

“In order to be a safe country, one has to be certified as such by an international body, and I do not think Guatemala fulfills the requirements to be a third safe country. That definition doesn’t fit us,” said Giammattei, a 63-year-old doctor.

Just how bad off does a nation have to be for their own president-elect to say they don’t qualify as a “safe third country?” Not that I’m arguing with him, of course. Guatemala may not be quite as bad as Honduras, but they are still plagued with gang violence, corruption and a very low standard of living for most citizens. If you flee from Honduras or points further south and wind up living in Guatemala, I’m not sure how much your prospects have improved. Honesty, Mexico is probably safer and offers better opportunities, as hard as it is to say those words aloud.

In any event, this seems to be the final nail in the coffin for the safe third country agreement. The new president won’t support it. Polling shows most of their people are opposed, so the legislature would be unlikely to go along with it. And it’s unclear whether they could actually enforce it even if they signed on to the deal.

It was a good idea in principle because reducing migrant traffic coming into Mexico from the south would make it far easier to shut down (or at least seriously reduce) the massive migrant caravans that have been overwhelming our border resources. But the plan just doesn’t seem to be practical. What we should probably be focusing on is helping Mexico act as a safe third country and make sure they continue to allow migrants to wait on their side of the border while their applications are processed.