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Guatemala court blocks immigration pact with U.S.

By Nicholas Sakelaris
Guatemala court blocks immigration pact with U.S.
Migrants who traveled from Central America wait in line in front of a shelter in Tijuana, Mexico on December 23, 2018. File Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo

July 15 (UPI) -- A top Central American court has blocked a controversial immigration agreement with the United States that seeks to mandate migrants from other nations like Honduras and El Salvador to first stay in Guatemala.

Guatemala's Constitutional Court, the nation's top civil court, blocked the agreement late Sunday to further review the matter. The move also prompted Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales to cancel a White House meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump Monday.

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Trump had requested Guatemala accept asylum seekers from Honduras, El Salvador and other nations who pass through en route to the United States. The deal could ease the immigration crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, administration officials said.

A senior administration official said the meeting was "being rescheduled" and the United States "will continue to work with the government of Guatemala on concrete and immediate steps that can be taken to address the ongoing migration crisis."

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Morales' office said Guatemala's high court hasn't ruled on Trump's request, which the office hinted the Guatemalan leader could ultimately reject. Monday, the Trump administration announced a new rule requiring that refugees first apply in other nations before reaching the U.S. border.

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"Due to speculation and legal proceedings admitted for processing to the Constitutional Court, a decision was made to reschedule the bilateral meeting until we know what was resolved by the court," it said in a statement. "The government of the republic reiterates that at no moment has it contemplated signing an agreement to convert Guatemala into a safe third country."

Some Guatemalans argue the government can't help migrants or asylum seekers when they also have thousands of people emigrating.

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