Trump announces asylum deal with Guatemala

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President Donald Trump said Friday that the United States had struck an asylum agreement with Guatemala.

Speaking from the Oval Office, Trump told reporters he had reached a safe third country deal with the Central American nation.

The administration did not immediately release text of the agreement. But acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said it would require migrants who pass through Guatemala en route to the U.S. to first seek asylum in that nation.

“We’ve long been working with Guatemala and now we can do it the right way,” Trump said, calling it a “landmark” deal. “It’s going to be terrific for them and terrific for the United States.”

Trump has railed at Guatemala in recent days for allegedly backing out of asylum negotiations with the U.S. The Guatemalan government earlier this month called off a meeting between Trump and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales amid litigation in that country’s top court challenging the asylum discussions.

In a tweet this week, Trump said his administration was weighing retaliation against Guatemala that included a possible travel ban, tariffs, and a fee on remittances — a significant source of economic activity in that country.

The threats aimed at Guatemala followed a similar campaign targeting Mexico last month for a perceived lack of commitment to combating illegal immigration. The U.S. and Mexico struck a deal in June that required Mexico to deploy 6,000 National Guard members to intercept migrants.

The latest deal follows a federal judge’s decision earlier this week to temporarily block a Trump administration regulation that sought to deny asylum to migrants who passed through another country without first seeking protections there.

Pro-migrant groups have blasted the idea that asylum seekers will be protected in Guatemala, which had a murder rate more than five times that of the U.S. in 2016.

In a call with reporters following the White House event, McAleenan said the deal would not be effective immediately, but he expected it would be implemented by August.

“We have several procedural steps in both governments to ratify and recognize the agreement and then put it into effect, but we’re expecting to move forward through those procedures in the next several weeks,” he said.

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