Mexico City, Apr 13 (EFE).- Mexico’s government said Tuesday that 12,000 personnel – including soldiers, immigration agents and other staff – have been deployed to the country’s southern region to contain the current migrant wave and combat the cross-border trafficking of minors.
“I’d estimate there are 12,000 people from very different specialized agencies, but not from one day to the next. They’ve been (deployed) for more than a month,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said at President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s regularly scheduled morning press conference.
Under a border security deal with the United States, Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala agreed to mobilize thousands of military personnel and police along their borders to halt a migrant flow that hit record levels in March, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.
She added that Mexico had made the decision to maintain 10,000 troops on its southern border with Guatemala.
But Ebrard said the real number was 12,000 people and specified that they included National Institute of Migration (INM) agents, National Guard troops and officials with the National System for Integral Development of Families (DIF), which is responsible for housing and caring for child migrants.
Mexican army and navy personnel also have been deployed to the country’s southern border region.
The foreign affairs secretary said the operation was necessary to tackle the current border crisis, adding that the government is concerned about the “extremely notable” increase in the number of unaccompanied minors.
He said those children were being used by smuggling networks to facilitate their efforts to “cross Mexico and reach the United States.”
A record 17,445 migrants were brought before the INM in March, while 3,139 unaccompanied minors were registered by the DIF, most of them from Guatemala and Honduras.
Ebrard recalled that Mexican law bars minors from being held at migrant processing stations and said the government must expand the DIF’s capacity for handling the higher influx.
“Why does Mexico need to regulate that? Because of our concern for minors who cross our territory. They’re our responsibility one way or another,” he said.
Mexico has entered into an agreement with the US government to “go after these traffickers” of child migrants, according to Ebrard, who added that “we’d never seen such large-scale trafficking of minors.”
The country’s immigration strategy is focused on protecting children, Lopez Obrador said at the press conference, adding that they are being used by traffickers in what amounts to a “very serious human rights violation.”
Last week, President Joe Biden’s administration said 172,000 undocumented migrants were stopped at the US-Mexico border in March, the highest figure in nearly two decades. The number of unaccompanied minors taken into custody, meanwhile, totaled nearly 19,000, a record for a single month.
The White House has said the border “is closed” and vowed to expel the vast majority of undocumented arrivals, but thus far it has been unable to halt the migrant wave.
The Biden administration also has come under criticism for holding child migrants beyond legal time limits at Border Patrol detention facilities, which are not intended to house minors. EFE