Mexico is arresting undocumented migrants at both ends of the country.
The government said today that almost 15,000 federal security force members have been deployed to the northern border to stop migrants crossing illegally into the United States.
As part of an agreement with the U.S. that ended a threat from President Donald Trump to impose tariffs on all Mexican goods, the government last week completed a deployment of 6,000 National Guard troops to the southern border, which tens of thousands of migrants have crossed to enter Mexico since late last year.
Speaking at the president’s press conference in Cancún, Quintana Roo, this morning, National Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said that members of both the National Guard and the armed forces are carrying out operations to stop undocumented migrants crossing into the United States.
Asked whether the strategy involved arresting migrants, he said it did.
However, Cresencio added: “migration isn’t a crime, it’s an administrative offense, so we only arrest them [and] turn them over to authorities so that they do the normal paperwork that must be done.”
He explained that the same strategy is being implemented both at the northern border and the southern border with Guatemala and Belize, adding that a military deployment to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region is also assisting the efforts.
Over the weekend, members of the National Guard carrying assault rifles were seen turning back migrants in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua.
A photograph taken in the northern border city and published by the news agency AFP showed one guardsman pulling back a woman who was holding the hand of a young girl while another agent was poised to intercept the path of a third female migrant.
The image triggered criticism of Mexico’s enforcement of stricter immigration policies.
“This is how Mexico is becoming Trump’s immigration police and the United States’ waiting room,” wrote journalist Jorge Ramos on Twitter.
“The National Guard, in theory, shouldn’t be repressing those who want to cross to the United States,” said Isabel Sánchez, coordinator for a Ciudad Juárez civic group with a focus on security and justice.
However, a poll published by the newspaper El Financiero last week showed that there is strong support in Mexico for strong immigration enforcement.
Almost two-thirds of respondents said that the government should close the southern border to migrants, and an even higher percentage supported the deployment of the National Guard to enforce stricter immigration policies.
The Associated Press reported that about 100 migrants were transported yesterday to a detention center in Arriaga, Chiapas, while Milenio TV said that 146 people were detained in a private home in Querétaro and more than 100 migrants were taken away from a hotel in Veracruz.
More than 74,000 migrants have been arrested since the new government took office in December, and over 53,000 were deported.
However, the number of undocumented migrants arrested in the United States after crossing the border between ports of entry has risen sharply this year and last month exceeded 144,000.
However, President Trump said on Thursday that Mexico’s stricter immigration enforcement was already yielding results.
“The flow [of migrants] has very substantially slowed down,” he said. “It’s already had a big impact.”