Newly elected Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on Tuesday told The Associated Press that the immigration deal his country signed with the Trump administration last month won't work.
Outgoing President Jimmy Morales signed an agreement that forces migrants from other countries who cross into Guatemala to apply for asylum there rather than the U.S., an arrangement known as a “safe third country agreement.”
“In order to be a safe country, one has to be certified as such by an international body, and I do not think Guatemala fulfills the requirements to be a third safe country. That definition doesn’t fit us,” Giammattei, 63, told AP.
“If we do not have the capacity for our own people, just imagine other people.”
The deal is reportedly unpopular in Guatemala, and critics argue it will put an undue burden on the Central American country at an inopportune time.
Giammattei, a conservative who will take office Jan. 14, noted to the AP that the agreement would have to be ratified by the congresses of both nations to go into force.
He told the outlet that to recognize the importance of Guatemalan migrants living in the U.S. he will create a Washington-based Cabinet-level position to attend to migrant affairs.
“It is about time we had a government that cared for the people,” he said.
“I do not think physical walls, or walls of weapons, can stop migration,” Giammattei added. “I think what can stop migration are walls of opportunities.”