WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

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18 Oct 2019 | Commentary

WOLA’s Adriana Beltrán Analyzes the U.S.-Guatemala “Safe Third Country Agreement” in Foreign Affairs

Washington, D.C.– As asylum seekers continue to flee intolerable conditions in their home countries, the Trump administration has found an important ally in Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, in terms of advancing an inhumane, ineffective, and hateful agenda against migrants. Under pressure from the U.S. government, on July 26 the Morales administration signed a “safe third country agreement” with the United States, which allows U.S. authorities to deport asylum seekers to Guatemala if they passed through that country during their journey to the U.S.-Mexico border. 

In a new article in Foreign Affairs, WOLA’s Director for Citizen Security Adriana Beltrán discusses the terms and flaws of that agreement, arguing that this is a fundamentally misguided approach to addressing migration in the region and will only negatively impact Guatemala.   

Beltrán points out that Guatemala’s problems of corruption, insecurity and poverty (with almost 59 percent of the population living in poverty) has made it difficult for Guatemala to provide stability and prosperity to its own citizens, let alone to an influx of asylum seekers. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency for Central America, Guatemala currently only has the capacity to process up to 200 asylum seekers per year. The lack of resources and basic infrastructure to uphold the rights and attend to the basic needs of asylum seekers—alongside ongoing problems with corruption—makes the U.S.-Guatemala “safe third country agreement” a far from acceptable solution to the ongoing migration crisis. 

Instead of signing arguably illegal “safe third country” deals that seek to outsource U.S. responsibilities on asylum, Beltrán argues that a better approach would involve the U.S. government focusing on the root problems causing people to flee Central America: corruption, declining economies, climate change, and violence.