Within days of each other, a Guatemalan court and a U.S. judge scuttled “safe third country” asylum initiatives that could have stemmed the tide of migrants heading to America’s southern border.
Guatemala’s Constitutional Court, after deliberating 2 ½ hours on Sunday, voted 4-1 to bar President Jimmy Morales from designating his nation a safe third country for asylum seekers. As the primary southern gateway into Mexico, Guatemala is a crucial transit corridor for northbound migrants.
The agreement would have been similar to one the U.S. has with Canada.
“The Constitutional Court, without any understanding and without the right to interfere in foreign relations, wrongly took a stance against the national interest,” Morales said afterward.
President Donald Trump registered similar disgust, tweeting: “Guatemala … has decided to break the deal they had with us on signing a necessary safe third agreement. We were ready to go.”
Trump then encountered legal obstacles of his own when U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar blocked an administration rule that would have required people seeking asylum to apply first in one of the countries they cross en route to the U.S.
Sitting in San Francisco, Tigar, appointed by former President Barack Obama, reversed D.C. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly, a Trump appointee, who had denied requests for an injunction just hours earlier.
So, it’s back to square one. With Mexico stonewalling consideration of a safe third country agreement there, the Guatemalan government has not indicated what steps, if any, it might take next. In Washington, it’s business as usual: doing nothing and going nowhere, while the humanitarian and security crisis at America’s southern border only gets worse.