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Trump threatens Guatemala with penalties over migration

The Hill logo The Hill 7/23/2019 Brett Samuels
Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: Trump threatens Guatemala with penalties over migration © Getty Trump threatens Guatemala with penalties over migration

President Trump on Tuesday threatened Guatemala with tariffs, remittance fees and other penalties one day after the two countries issued a joint statement touting "important progress" on addressing migration.

The president's ire toward the Northern Triangle nation came as he claimed it "decided to break the deal they had with us on signing a necessary Safe Third Agreement."

"Guatemala, which has been forming Caravans and sending large numbers of people, some with criminal records, to the United States, has decided to break the deal they had with us on signing a necessary Safe Third Agreement. We were ready to go," Trump tweeted.

"Now we are looking at the 'BAN,' Tariffs, Remittance Fees, or all of the above," he continued. "Guatemala has not been good. Big U.S. taxpayer dollars going to them was cut off by me 9 months ago."

It's unclear what Trump was referring to by a "BAN." The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The two countries had not formally committed to such a deal, which would require Guatemala to process asylum claims from migrants who set foot there first while headed to another country. Guatemala's Constitutional Court earlier this month blocked President Jimmy Morales from declaring the nation a safe third country.

Trump has been openly critical of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador in recent months, asserting that those nations have not done enough to prevent their citizens from leaving to seek asylum in the U.S.

The administration cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the three Northern Triangle countries earlier this year before reversing course and allowing roughly two-thirds of the money to go forward.

Despite Trump's outrage, U.S. officials have spoken regularly of the importance of cooperating with nations like Guatemala to curb the flow of migrants.

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 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.

The statement, which spoke of "working cooperatively" and "strengthening the relationship" between the two countries, was at odds with Trump's tweets.

"By strengthening the relationship between the two countries through such agreements, the U.S. and Guatemala, as partners, will better protect the most vulnerable populations of Guatemala while confronting irregular migration," the governments said.

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