Guatemala is facing a potential constitutional crisis as one of the country’s most politicized courts nullified the congressional appointment of an outspoken Guatemalan who supports the Trump administration’s immigration policies, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.
Unión Nacional de la Esperanza, or UNE, the country’s second largest political party that has ties to the country’s former Marxist guerrilla leaders, moved quickly to oust and nullify Melanie Müllers’ appointment as executive secretary of the National Committee of Guatemalan Migrants, known as Conamigua. The group filed a complaint with the country’s most politicized judicial arm called the Constitutional Court on March 1.
Müllers has boldly staked out a unique Guatemalan position endorsing the U.S. government’s new policy of tightly closing the Mexico border and returning illegal immigrants back to their home countries.
The charismatic woman won an overwhelming election on Jan. 17 as the agency’s leader in a vote by the full Guatemalan Congress.
She bluntly described the smuggling of people into the United States as “human rights violations” and declared the trafficking of unaccompanied children into the United States was an “international crime.”
Although Müllers has not publicly supported President Donald Trump, her comments directly challenge the underlying assumptions of Obama administration policies, which suggested illegal immigration was a “right” for people escaping poverty or violence.
Guatemala is considered a pivotal “gateway” country in the war against illegal immigration. All illegal immigrants — from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala — must travel through Guatemala to get to Mexico.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly traveled to Guatemala on Feb. 21 to reassert the importance of stemming illegal immigration. After meeting with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and other top officials, he told local reporters of “the dangers and exploitation faced by Guatemalan citizens who risk the journey north.”
Orlando Blanco, a leader of the UNE Party and former guerrilla, decided to challenge the Jan. 17 congressional vote and chose a court that is reportedly packed with left-wing magistrates.
The court ruled that it was nullifying the Congress’ choice on March 1, but last Friday, it upped the ante and ordered the country’s Congress to void its original vote and schedule a new election for the post within 48 hours.
Constitutional experts claim the court’s latest action violates the separation of powers between the Congress and the judiciary, triggering a constitutional crisis between the two branches of government.
The court also acted against Müllers without a public evidentiary hearing and did not provide any forum for her attorneys to present a case.
“We tried to reach them (the court), tried to talk to them, to understand what was going on in a legal way. But we have not been able to reach them in any way,” Müllers’ lawyer, Karen Ordóñez told TheDCNF.
Guatemalan constitutional lawyer Jose Luis Gonzalez said the court acted against the constitution and the rule of law. “It is not that they make the wrong interpretation of the law. It is that they are ruling against the law,” he told TheDCNF.
The court is highly politicized. “We are in a period of radical ideological movements by social-conflict groups,” warned Juan Pablo Carrasco, the president of the Guatemalan-American Chamber of Commerce. He has repeatedly criticized the Constitutional Court for upholding leftist violence against many new enterprises either to sabotage them or intimidate workers from participating in them.
Müllers doesn’t pull her punches, saying human smuggling is permitted because of widespread government corruption that collaborates with organized crime and “coyotes” — the name of smugglers who deliver their human cargo to the United States. The issue was challenged to the government.
She has said human smuggling also encourages sexual exploitation, white collar crime, child abuse and child abduction.
Müllers was one of 47 candidates who originally vied for the federal immigration post, and was selected as one of five finalists for the position.
All five candidates, including Müllers, addressed the full Guatemalan Congress, and she easily won in the first round on Jan. 17, capturing 86 votes out of 145 to win the federal post. She was sworn into office on Feb. 9.
Guatemala has to “control the incoming of the immigrants” to the U.S., Müllers said in an interview with TheDCNF.
She said she was committed to a policy that would “regulate” emigration. “The numbers are less if we control the incoming of the immigrants (to the U.S.), if we regulate it, if we make a better system.” Müllers said Guatemala needed “comprehensive reform” so that those who enter the U.S. legally “actually get the opportunity to live the American dream.”
She was toughest on the flow of unaccompanied children to the United States. “We must abolish the import of children traveling alone to the United States. That’s an international crime. Young children traveling alone and risking their lives,” she said.
In order to keep children in Guatemala, the country had to offer a good future for its young. “We don’t want children to leave,” she said. “We ought to be capable as a country to offer good opportunities for our people so they would not risk their lives the way they do.”
The court argued that Müllers did not meet the qualifications to oversee the migrant agency, which requires the leader to have at least three years of experience in the immigration field.
But Müllers worked for three years with the American Bar Association in Dade County, Fla., which includes Miami, helping local Guatemalan immigrants.
During that time, she worked with Mayra Joli, one of Florida’s most active immigration attorneys. When Müllers worked with Joli, the Florida attorney also was the chairwoman of the Dade County American Bar Association’s committee on immigration law.
Joli told TheDCNF, “her most valuable skills are that she knows the needs of the immigrant and where to get help for them. She has seen the needs of the Guatemalan community. She has been there with them. She knows their needs. If it wasn’t for her, I would not have been able to help about 200 Guatemalans a week.”
TheDCNF sent three questions to the Constitutional Court about its rulings on the case. The court acknowledged TheDCNF’s questions, but said they did not have time to answer them.
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