Greater efforts to round up illegal migrants have nothing to do with the United States’ threat to levy a tariff on all Mexican imports, the president said today.
President López Obrador insisted at his morning press conference that an increase in migrant detentions by Mexican authorities is unrelated to United States President Donald Trump’s threat to levy a 5% tariff if Mexico does not reduce migration flows.
Yesterday, as Mexican and U.S. officials were about to begin talks over the tariff in Washington, Mexican forces intercepted a caravan of as many as 1,000 migrants after they crossed the border from Guatemala. About 600 were detained; the remainder escaped capture.
Responding to a question during his press conference about two migrants who were arrested, López Obrador asserted that his administration does not act at the behest of the U.S. government.
“There is no basis to this. We don’t behave like that; we base our actions on principles and ideals. I don’t know if there was an order of apprehension [in this case], but what I do know is that they were detained and turned over to the Attorney General’s Office.”
The president added that his administration is striving to respect human rights while enforcing its laws to discourage illegal immigration.
“One thing that should be known is that among these migrants are children, thousands of children, and unaccompanied children. This is a profound humanitarian crisis, and we cannot attend to it by just closing borders. It has to be addressed in terms of the origin of the social problem.”
The president said migrants are leaving their home countries to escape hunger, poverty and violence, and those causes must be addressed.
Mexico has stepped up detentions and deportations, setting up new checkpoints and conducting raids on hotels and guesthouses in Tapachula, Chiapas.
Advocacy groups have expressed concern about the increasingly militarized approach employed by the Mexican government to slow the flow of migrants.
U.S. authorities released statistics this week indicating that more than 144,000 undocumented migrants were arrested in May, the highest monthly total in 13 years and the third consecutive month in which detentions neared or exceeded 100,000.