Washington—Representative Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today expressed his strong opposition to the Trump Administration’s signing of an agreement with Guatemala deeming it a country adequately safe to receive asylum seekers who have reached the United States (“Safe Third Country Agreement”):

“President Trump’s decision to sign this agreement with Guatemala is cruel and immoral. It is also illegal. Simply put, Guatemala is not a safe country for refugees and asylum seekers, as the law requires. It lacks the asylum and protection processes required by U.S. law for negotiation of such an agreement.

“In fact, the Trump Administration itself concluded in its latest Human Rights Report on Guatemala that the country’s judicial system ‘generally failed to provide fair or timely trials due to inefficiency, corruption and intimidation of judges, prosecutors and witnesses.’ The State Department also said that Guatemala did not define the term ‘refugee’ under domestic law until 2017 and that regulations to implement that law have not yet been issued.

“One month ago, I sent a letter to the Trump Administration along with Chairmen Nadler and Thompson seeking a briefing on the legality of safe third country agreements with Guatemala and Mexico. It’s outrageous that Secretary Pompeo and the State Department ignored our request and moved ahead with the misguided agreement. The Administration’s refusal to tell Congress its legal rationale speaks volumes. Either they don’t have one or it wouldn’t stand up in court.

“I will be watching closely as today’s counterproductive decision is challenged in the courts. But it shouldn’t come to that. I urge the Trump Administration to return to the longstanding and common-sense bipartisan policy of providing foreign assistance to the Northern Triangle countries to address the root causes of child and family migration.” 

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