The deployment of 6,000 National Guard troops to the southern border will be completed by Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said today.
Mexico committed to the deployment and other measures to reduce migration last week as part of an agreement with the United States that ended the threat of a 5% tariff on Mexican exports to the U.S.
The first troops arrived in Tapachula Friday morning and began patrolling the city, but there was no indication they belonged to the new security force, the newspaper Milenio reported. Instead, it was made up of local and state police, Federal Police, the Gendarmerie, marines and soldiers.
Meanwhile, there was no official presence at the Guatemala border, some 50 kilometers away, and migrants were entering Mexico freely after crossing the Suchiate river aboard rafts, Milenio said.
Speaking at the presidential press conference this morning, Foreign Secretary Ebrard said “a lot of efforts have been made to accelerate the pace [of the operation].”
There will also be an additional deployment of marines and soldiers to the border, he said.
Earlier this week, Ebrard said that 13 units of the National Guard will be deployed to Campeche, Chiapas and Tabasco – all of which share a border with Guatemala – as well as Veracruz and Oaxaca.
In Veracruz yesterday, he said the government will ramp up efforts to ensure that migrants register with authorities, and restrict their transit through the country to the United States border.
“If you want to cross our territory to arrive at another country, what you’re probably going to find is that we’re going to tell you ‘we don’t want you to cross our territory’ . . . Why? Because you’re going to create a problem for our country,” he said.
Ebrard said today that 825 new agents will join the National Immigration Institute to assist efforts to reduce irregular migration, explaining that the agency is understaffed.
“That’s been one of the most serious problems,” he said.
Almost 600,000 migrants have arrived at the southern United States border from Mexico this year, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said Wednesday, including more than 144,000 undocumented migrants who were apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection last month.
Asylum applications in Mexico have increased by 196% this year, the UNHCR said, leading human rights and migration undersecretary Alejandro Encinas to predict that 80,000 requests will be filed this year.
Mexico’s tiny refugee agency has struggled to cope with the influx of applications, forcing it to ask the UNHCR for help to open three new offices.
With regard to the expansion of the United States’ “Remain in Mexico” policy, which the government also agreed to as part of last week’s deal, Ebrard said he will meet with U.S. authorities today to discuss the ports of entry through which the migrants will be returned and how many will be sent.
While agreeing to implement the anti-migration measures set out in the agreement with the United States, President López Obrador has consistently maintained that the best way to stem flows of people to the northern border is by investing in development projects in southern Mexico and Central America.
In May, Ebrard presented seven such projects to the United States government and proposed that it provide funding for them.
Today he said that the implementation of the Comprehensive Development Plan for Central America and southern Mexico will formally commence next week.
“We’re going to show that development really can [reduce] migration in the short and long term,” Ebrard said.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump said today that the immigration agreement with Mexico includes a “safe third country” plan if efforts to curb migration to the border fail.
A photographer snapped an image of a document held up by the U.S. president earlier this week whose text appeared to indicate that Mexico had agreed to legislate such a scheme if its efforts to stem migration flows proved insufficient.
Asked in an interview today if the agreement included the “safe third country” option – which would force migrants to seek asylum in Mexico rather than the United States – Trump said that’s “exactly right, and that’s what’s going to happen.”