The United States “doesn’t have the luxury” of deporting millions of undocumented migrants as President-elect Donald Trump has threatened, Guatemala’s president argued Monday.
“Economically, the United States doesn’t have the luxury of throwing out 12 million inhabitants or people who are on its territory without papers given that they produce, consume and contribute to GDP growth in that country,” President Jimmy Morales told Guatemalan radio station Emisoras Unidas.
Trump, who takes over from Barack Obama on Friday with a Republican legislative majority, has sent chills through nearby Latin American countries, including Guatemala, with his repeated vows to expel millions of migrants without residency papers.
Morales said Guatemala had no contingency plans in case massive deportations did happen. But he stressed the incoming US leader would have to get lawmakers’ consent to follow through with his threat.
“The United States is a very institutional country where the executive branch isn’t the only one to take decisions,” he said.
“The Congress and Senate have a lot of power.”
Morales said his country had reinforced its consular staff in the United States, as had Central American neighbors El Salvador and Honduras as well as Mexico.
Official figures estimate there are around 1.5 million Guatemalans living in the United States, but that fewer than a third of them have legal residency.
Those migrants sent back more than $7 billion to Guatemala last year in remittances.
Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, Honduras to the east and El Salvador to the southeast.
With an estimated population of around 15.8 million, it is the most populous state in Central America.
A representative democracy, its capital and largest city is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City.
The territory of modern Guatemala once formed the core of the Maya civilization, which extended across Mesoamerica.
Most of the country was conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century, becoming part of the viceroyalty of New Spain.
It attained independence in 1821 as part of the Federal Republic of Central America, which dissolved in 1841.