Human Rights Initiative Statement on Draft of Safe Third Country Agreement with Guatemala



Contact: Kali Cohn,   214-273-4338  

DALLAS– On June 13, 2019, Voice of America obtained draft White House agreement between the United States and Guatemala, which would create “Safe Third Country” protocol between the two countries. Should the agreement go into effect, the vast majority of adults and children traveling through Guatemala to seek asylum in the United States would be ineligible for asylum in the United States. The announcement comes on the eve of Presidential elections in Guatemala, where corruption and human rights have become central campaign issues.

“Guatemala is not a safe country for its own citizens, let alone the refugees that are traveling through the country to reach the United States,” said Pilar Ferguson, Asylum Program Attorney at the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas. “Our own State Department has determined that Guatemala’s asylum laws are inadequate to provide protection, and has determined that nearly half of the country is too dangerous for people to travel. This draft agreement flies in the face of our international responsibility to be a safe haven for people fleeing persecution, torture, and death.”

“Every week, we see kids who have fled Guatemala to get to the United States—often, because they are facing forced gang recruitment, child labor, and violence,” said Anna Rupani, Children’s Program Attorney at the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas. “To think that every unaccompanied kid fleeing El Salvador and Honduras—often for the same reasons—will be safe in Guatemala is willfully blind. Our country should use our power to help address the actual causes of forced displacement, not push the crisis onto someone else’s doorstep.”

About Human Rights Initiative of North Texas

Founded by social worker Serena Simmons Connelly and lawyer Elizabeth Healy, the Dallas-based Human Rights Initiative of North Texas has grown into an award-winning agency helping immigrant survivors of human rights abuses from all over the world. Our courageous and resilient clients are eligible to apply for legal status under the humanitarian provisions of U.S. immigration laws and policies: they are asylum seekers fleeing persecution; children who have been abandoned, abused, and neglected; and victims of family violence and violent crimes. HRI’s Legal team partners with a network of over 250 pro bono attorneys from top DFW firms and corporations to help clients access the U.S. immigration system, and our Social Services team offers transitional support and referrals to help address trauma and ease the hardships of profound displacement. At HRI, all of our services are free, and all are designed to help forge a path to safety, stability and opportunity. For more information, visit

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