White House Weighs 'Travel Ban' On Guatemala Unless It Curbs Illegal Immigration The possible travel ban against Guatemala comes after the Central American nation said it couldn't sign a deal with the Trump administration to force migrants to claim asylum there instead of the U.S.

Trump Administration Considering 'Travel Ban' On Guatemalans After Asylum Snub

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The Trump administration is weighing dramatic measures against Guatemala in order to get Guatemala's help curbing illegal migration to the United States. In recent days, President Trump has suggested tariffs, also targeting remittance money - that is the money Guatemalans working here in the States send back home to Guatemala.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So we'll either do tariffs or we'll do something. We're looking at something very severe with respect to Guatemala.

KELLY: Now NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez has learned - this is an exclusive - that the administration is also considering a travel ban on Guatemalan nationals traveling to the U.S. Hi there, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hi. How are you?

KELLY: I'm well. Thank you. So what does this mean - travel ban? Is it as simple as it sounds - Guatemalans could not come to the U.S.?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, I mean, it's not unlike the very controversial ban against several Muslim-majority nations that the president pushed before against Libya, Iran, Somalia and Syria. Basically, it could prevent Guatemalans or subsets of Guatemalans from legally entering the United States. Congress has already given the president some sweeping powers to stop the entry of certain foreign nationals who he or she feels would be detrimental to the interests of the United States. The White House told me they're simply using powers that have been used by other presidents; they listed Obama, Bush, Clinton and several others.

KELLY: But with Guatemala and with this moment in 2019, how did we get to this point, where the Trump administration is considering a travel ban?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. I mean, it's a pretty big deal. I mean, President Trump is angry. He feels that Guatemala backed out of an asylum deal. It was a deal that was very important to his plans of requiring more migrants to apply for asylum outside of the United States.

In this case, migrants going through United - pardon me - going through Guatemala would have had to apply for asylum to the United States while they were in Guatemala. But Guatemala's high court said no, they wouldn't allow it. Trump just didn't believe it. He thinks the high court of Guatemala wasn't acting independently, and he plans to take some action.

KELLY: And just for the record, Guatemala says they didn't break any deal; they say they never agreed to one in the first place, right?

ORDOÑEZ: Exactly. They say they did not agree to a deal, though the government now is also saying that, you know, they would like to work with the United States, and they're blaming the high court for not - you know, not kind of jumping in the way.

KELLY: So speaking of court, if this travel ban goes ahead, are we expecting some kind of legal fight?

ORDOÑEZ: Oh, yeah. I mean, I think you can pretty much count on lawsuits if Trump follows through with this. I will say, it doesn't seem to bother Trump. He's confident considering that the Supreme Court did back him in the end, after the year and a half battle over the Muslim-majority travel ban.

But I did speak with some former Obama officials who told me that it wouldn't be much harder to justify a ban against law-abiding Guatemalans. This could target law-abiding Guatemalans who are doing trade and commerce in the United States, and it would be a lot harder to prove why they are detrimental to the U.S. interests.

KELLY: Franco, is this connected in any way to the episode that we watched last - just last month, I guess it was, when President Trump threatened Mexico with tariffs if it didn't crack down on illegal border crossings and do what he wanted?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. I mean, in that case, Trump threatened big, escalating tariffs that started at 5% and then went up to 25%. Some felt Trump was posturing. And there was this lengthy standoff between the two nations. But at the 11th hour, Trump announced that Mexico had backed down.

KELLY: So we will have to see what Guatemala decides - if they think he will back down or not. That is NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez.

Thank you.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you.

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