President Trump on Friday said the U.S. had reached a deal with Guatemala for the country to take in more asylum-seekers from other Central American nations.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan and a top Guatemalan official signed the documents in the Oval Office, with Trump looking on.
“They’re doing what we’ve asked them to do and I think it’s going to be a great thing for Guatemala,” Trump told reporters.
[email protected]: The United States and Guatemala have reached an agreement on asylum. The agreement was just signed in the Oval Office.— The White House (@WhiteHouse) July 26, 2019
The arrangement will require migrants traveling through Guatemala to apply for asylum there before continuing on toward the United States.
“This will really help. This is something that is going to be rather incredible,” Trump said.
Trump said he expected to sign similar agreements with El Salvador and Honduras, but did not elaborate.
Further details about the deal were not immediately made available by the White House.
Trump previously threatened to impose tariffs, slap fees on remittances and institute new travel restrictions on Guatemala if its government did not accept the “safe third country” agreement.
“Guatemala … has decided to break the deal they had with us on signing a necessary Safe Third Agreement. We were ready to go,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “Guatemala has not been good.”
Asked what had changed since the president’s tweet, McAleenan and Guatemalan Minister of Interior Enrique Degenhart said the two sides remain at the negotiating table.
“I would say that Guatemala is definitely clear on the responsibility that it has,” Degenhart told reporters. “We are clear that we have to make changes, and the way to do it is working together with our best ally. That’s what we’re showing here today.”
The president has put pressure on Mexico and Guatemala — the transit countries for Salvadoran and Honduran migrants — to act as buffers for asylum-seekers in an effort to cut down the number of migrants crossing the U.S. southern border.
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales was set to sign an agreement last week, but backed away at the 11th hour, citing constitutional hurdles.
Despite Trump’s criticisms of Guatemala, the administration as a whole has sought to collaborate with the Central American country in recent months.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a joint statement with the Guatemalan government on Monday stating that the two sides “have entered into several agreements” to address the influx of migrants moving toward the U.S.
The two countries are working toward signing an agreement to provide further protections to Guatemalan workers in the U.S. on visas and expanding access to regular access to migration avenues in Guatemala, according to the statement.
Trump has more broadly sought to limit the flow of migrants toward the border through executive action and the threat of tariffs.
The administration announced earlier this month a move to end protections for asylum seekers who pass through another country before reaching the United States. The order has already been challenged in court.
Image: Trump presides over signing of document by a Guatemalan official and the acting DHS Secretary.