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Mexico has sent nearly 15,000 troops to its northern border, announcing a crackdown on illegal crossings and caving in to President Donald Trump’s threats to impose punitive tariffs unless it cuts the flow of migrants into the US.
The troops take on the task of preventing illegal border-crossings, apprehending violators and turning them over to the National Institute of Migration, the government body tasked with overseeing and controlling migration. The massive deployment to the 1,954-mile US border complements an additional 2,000 troops sent south, to the border with Guatemala and Belize, where they join the 4,500 troops already stationed there.
“Given that (undocumented) migration is not a crime but rather an administrative violation, we simply detain them and turn them over to the [migration] authorities,” Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval told reporters at a press conference on Monday. “If we left it in the hands of the National Institute of Migration, it wouldn’t be possible.” The president of the Institute resigned earlier this month, just a week after President Andrés Manuel López Obrador reached a deal with the US to crack down on illegal immigration, amid reports the agency is overwhelmed and under-budgeted.
Sandoval acknowledged that the practice of detaining migrants attempting to cross into the US represented a new, stricter border policy, and affirmed that the military is working with the Migration Institute on both borders. Over 132,000 migrants were apprehended at the US-Mexico border in May, the highest total in 13 years, and nearly 600,000 have been caught in fiscal year 2019.
Under a “deal” presented by US President Donald Trump earlier this month, Mexico was given 45 days to prove it was serious about stemming the flow of illegal immigrants into the US. Absent unspecified “results,” Trump has threatened to impose a 5 percent tariff that could escalate to 25 percent if the problem is not addressed. The Mexican government is working with the governments of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to limit the flow of migrants from those countries, while the US Department of Homeland Security reportedly sent dozens of agents to Guatemala to “disrupt and interdict human smuggling operations” along the country’s border with Mexico.
Migrants already in the US received a temporary reprieve this weekend after Trump called off promised deportation raids to see if Democrats and Republicans could set aside their differences and “work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border.” With migrant detention facilities severely overcrowded and inflammatory rhetoric comparing them to “concentration camps” being flung about, the stakes are high, though Mexico has promised as part of the deal struck earlier this month to take back illegals awaiting their asylum hearings in the US.