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Emerging Safe Third Country Asylum Agreement

In the past, the Guatemalan Constitutional Court has blocked any potential “safe third country” agreement with the US. However, in recent weeks, Guatemala agreed to a prospective agreement which would require asylum-seekers who travel through its borders to first seek refuge there before moving on to the U.S.

Under the broad outlines of the accord, the Trump administration plans to relocate a large number of asylum seekers from Honduras and El Salvador back to Guatemala, instead of processing their claims in overwhelmed U.S. immigration courts. The process would happen slowly, beginning with individuals, not families, and what are considered to be the “least vulnerable” groups.

A DHS official recently claimed that the Administration is working closely with Guatemala on implementation of the agreement, which includes “a phased implementation relying upon a mutual understanding and agreement of the number of people who might seek protection in Guatemala and what volume of protection seekers the Guatemalan system could process.”

The United States has sought the deal with Guatemala, in part, to assure Mexico that no single country is able carry the burden alone. The country of Mexico vowed in its recent accord with the Administration to work on a regional asylum overhaul plan, but President Andrés Manuel López Obrador insisted he does not want Mexico to enter into a “Safe Third Country” accord that would force Mexico to accept all U.S.-bound asylum seekers.

Earlier this year, hundreds of millions of dollars were cut in foreign assistance to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. The Administration made the claim that it is prepared to offer the candidates a resumption of foreign assistance aimed at addressing the root causes driving migration from the country. It also claims that the deal will transform Guatemala’s relationship with the United States, bringing more work visas, investment, and tens of millions of dollars in U.S. financial aid.

This proposed agreement has been met with sharp criticism from immigrant advocates, claiming that asylum seekers may be no safer in Guatemala than in their country of origin, because of the country’s long-withstanding struggles with violence, crime, and ease with which criminal organizations from Hondurans and El Salvador would be able to cross into the country to hunt down targets.

With constantly changing laws and agreements in immigration law and legislation, It is now more important than ever to protect yourself and your family. Contact us today for the representation you need.

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