Several news outlets are reporting that Mexico is increasing security at its southern border with Guatemala. Maya Averbuch is a freelance reporter based in Mexico who’s been covering the story for The New York Times, and says Mexico has deployed about 8,500 federal security forces at its southern border and 15,000 in the north, and it has also deployed some members of its newly-formed National Guard to work alongside the troops.
“Mexico is making a show of force at this point, of having armed people trying to prevent migration, of having night patrols, and of having increased checkpoints to prevent people from crossing the country,” Averbuch says.
Mexican media has shown what appeared to be troops grabbing migrants as they try to cross a river into Mexico. Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, said in a recent press conference that the National Guard does have the right to detain migrants, but that migrants would face civil, not criminal, charges for crossing into Mexico illegally. AMLO said the troops are there to control the flow of immigrants, but also observe their human rights.
But Averbuch says it’s unprecedented for troops to physically stop migrants.
“We haven’t seen, before, this sort of militarized presence trying to physically restrain migrants,” Averbuch says.
And there’s risks to this new approach, she says, because migrants will try other, sometimes dangerous, ways to cross to avoid security forces. Some have drowned in the process.
Trump’s pressure on Mexico to stop the flow of migrants has partly led to this crackdown, Averbuch says. But she also says Mexico had already been increasing its security over the last several years. She also says it’s likely not a long-term solution.
“If you ask immigration advocates, what they say is that there will probably be a drop in migration for a few weeks or a few months, but likely the fact that there are still so many pressures in Central America that are forcing people to migrate, and that there are long-standing networks that allow people to do so means that the numbers will rebound,” Averbuch says.
Written by Caroline Covington.