Mexico Vows Migrant Crackdown, Aid 06/16 09:39
Mexican President Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador said Saturday his country must
help Central Americans fleeing poverty and violence, even as it increases
security and revisions to deter migrants from passing through Mexico on route
to the U.S.
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Mexican President Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador said
Saturday his country must help Central Americans fleeing poverty and violence,
even as it increases security and revisions to deter migrants from passing
through Mexico on route to the U.S.
Mexico plans to deploy 6,000 National Guard troops by Tuesday to its
southern border with Guatemala to slow the arrival of migrants and The
Associated Press saw Mexican soldiers with black National Guard armbands
stationed just north of the Guatemalan border on Saturday.
A checkpoint near Ciudad Cuauhtemoc in southern Chiapas state was manned by
nearly 10 soldiers with black armbands together with federal police and
immigration officers. The officials pulled at least two suspected migrants
lacking required documents from vehicles.
At another checkpoint just north of Comitan in Chiapas, about a dozen
apparent National Guardsmen drove around backroads in the rain and dark,
looking for migrants but not finding any. The AP followed them in another
Mexico's president has walked a fine line between enforcement and
humanitarian overtures for migrants since he took office on Dec. 1. Initially
his administration issued thousands of transit visas for safe passage through
Mexico, only to clamp down shortly after with stepped up detentions and
"The truth is that there is a great humanitarian crisis in Central America
and many people out of necessity have set out to look for a life in the United
States and they pass through our territory," said Lpez Obrador, speaking in the
northern state of Chihuahua.
Lpez Obrador said the refusal to help foreigners in need is
"anti-Christian," adding that "we can't turn our backs on them."
He is lobbying for international development aid to help Central Americans
stay in their countries of origin. He said Saturday that 80 percent of the
migrants crossing through Mexico, and toward the U.S., are from Central America.
Mexico has offered refuge to migrants with credible fears as thousands
remain in the country while they await court dates for asylum petitions in the
U.S. The understaffed and underfunded Mexican refugee commission faces a
backlog of cases.
But in recent months, police and immigration have stepped up enforcement in
southern Mexico, setting up highway checkpoints, raiding a caravan of mostly
Central American migrants and trying to keep people off the northbound train
known as "the beast."
At the same time, Mexicans have grown increasingly intolerant of the large
numbers of migrants passing through their country in an attempt to reach the
A June poll in Mexican newspaper El Universal showed that Mexicans are less
receptive to allowing undocumented migrants to come in, or to stay on
permanently as refugees, than they were in October, when caravans with
thousands of Central American migrants were winding their way north.
A majority of Mexicans that participated in the survey said they favor
barring entry to migrants who try cross into Mexico without visas, and a
majority now say that Mexico should not offer them refugee status.
Mexico's southern border is porous and difficult to patrol, with dense
jungle and rivers.
On Friday, a sociologist who served as Mexico's immigration chief resigned
and was replaced by the country's director of prisons. Foreign Relations
Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said an additional 825 immigration agents will be sent
to the southern border next week.
Alejandro Murat, governor of the southern state of Oaxaca, applauded the
stepped up enforcement and controls. "For the first time, there will be order
on the southern border that will allow us to have the identity and control of
who is in the national territory," said Murat Friday.