Mexico Sends Almost 15,000 Troops to US-Mexico Border to Curb Illegal Immigration

By Mimi Nguyen-ly

Mexico has deployed just under 15,000 soldiers and National Guard members in the north of the country to curb the flow of illegal immigration across the border into the United States, Mexican Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval said on Monday, June 24.

Sandoval said that the soldiers were needed to back up migration officials in containment operations.

In addition to 6,500 security force personnel who have already been sent to Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, a larger contingent is now in the north, he said, according to Reuters. Most of the people caught on the U.S.-Mexico border are from three Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

“In the northern part of the country, we have a total deployment of 14,000, almost 15,000 units between the National Guard and the Army,” Sandoval told a news conference in Cancun.

“If we left it completely in the hands of the National Institute of Migration it wouldn’t be possible,” he added, according to Reuters. “That’s why we’re providing support, it’s a strategy being pursued on both borders.”

Mexico has not traditionally used security forces to stop undocumented foreign nationals from leaving the country for the United States.

“We simply detain them and turn them over to the authorities” at the National Migration Institute, Sandoval said according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The United States and Mexico reached a deal on June 7, giving Mexico 45 days to demonstrate that it is helping to significantly curb the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States.

Mexico To Seek Help

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard recently said that Mexico would meet with 19 other countries in the coming weeks to try and gather support to stem the flow of illegal immigrants to the United States.

He added that Mexico was investigating a network of human smugglers—including that of unaccompanied minors, which he said was on the rise—and the financing of these operations. U.S. border security officials say an unknown number of these units use fraudulent birth certificates to fake family ties.

Under current U.S. law, authorities can only hold illegal immigrant families for 20 days. As a result, those who claim asylum as families are released into the United States shortly after apprehension. Officials said in May that they are piloting a rapid DNA-testing program at the border to help combat the problem.

Trump Threatens Tariffs

The agreement came after Trump threatened to impose a 5 percent tariff on all imports from Mexico. The tariffs would increase by five percentage points every month until October when the levy would reach 25 percent if the Mexican government did not agree to do more to address the flow of illegal immigrants to the United States through their country.

The State Department released an outline of the deal on June 7, which states that Mexico agreed to take “unprecedented steps to increase enforcement to curb irregular migration,” including the deployment of the Mexican National Guard throughout the country starting June 10, especially on its southern border with Guatemala.

In the deal, Mexico also committed to taking “decisive action to dismantle human smuggling and trafficking organizations as well as their illicit financial and transportation networks.”

The Mexican government has said that should current measures fail, it will consider changing its laws in an attempt to uphold the agreement, according to Reuters.

Trump had said earlier that Democrats have forced him to take action against Mexico because they had not been willing to fix loopholes in U.S. immigration laws that are fueling the immigration crisis.

“Border arrests for May are at 133,000 because of Mexico & the Democrats in Congress refusing to budge on immigration reform,” he tweeted on June 5.

Customs and Border Protection in June released the number of migrants illegally crossing the border, showing a 13-year high of 144,278 in May.

“We need to work with Mexico on this problem,” Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told The Hill.

He said that at any given time, there are 100,000 migrants moving through Mexico to get to the U.S. border.

“This is a very overt movement. It uses commercial bus lines. These are organized criminal organizations that are smuggling humans,” he said. “In Chiapas, there’s about a 150-mile stretch where most of these crossings occur between Guatemala and Mexico. We need them to interdict these folks at the point of origin crossing their border.”

Bowen Xiao and Reuters contributed to this report.