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  • Guatemalan migrants at the Rio Bravo river before crossing into the U.S. to request asylum in El Paso, Texas, U.S., June 11, 2019.

    Guatemalan migrants at the Rio Bravo river before crossing into the U.S. to request asylum in El Paso, Texas, U.S., June 11, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 26 June 2019

The Homeland Security acting secretary is negotiating the proposal with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

The U.S. National Security acting secretary Kevin McAleenan Wednesday is holding a meeting in Tegucigalpa with government representatives from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the countries of the so-called Central American Northern Triangle, to analyze President Donald Trump’s proposal to turn Guatemala into a "safe third country."

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On June 17, Trump raised this proposal as part of a new U.S.-Guatemala agreement to curb migration, although the Guatemalan Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart said Monday the safe-third-country proposal is part of a "much broader" strategy which would benefit both countries.

It is expected that today's discussions in Tegucigalpa will mainly revolve around how to negotiate the Trump proposal and implement it.

According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which is a binding document for all the United Nations members, a country like the U.S. can refuse to grant asylum to migrants and send asylum seekers to a country that is considered "safe" to their lives.

This means that the U.S. could send Salvadorian and Honduran asylum seekers to Guatemala, a territory in which they will have to stay until their application is processed by U.S. migration authorities.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Tuesday that it will deploy up to 89 agents to Guatemala by the end of August under a joint agreement which was signed on May 27 by the DHS acting secretary and the Guatemalan Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart.

The DHS would deploy up to 65 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and 24 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, who would act as "advisers" with "no law enforcement authority."

So far Mexico has refused to become a 'safe third country despite pressure from Washington to do more to halt Central American migrants across its southern border with Guatemala.

Earlier this month, however, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) administration agreed to enforce tighter migration controls, including sending militarized police to the Mexican borders.

Many people are fleeing Guatemala due to rising levels of murder, violence related to drugs and organized crime as well as high rates of poverty. Activists have said that labeling Guatemala as a safe country would be ironic considering many of the Central American migrants come from the very same country. 

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