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Mexico Says Immigration Efforts Focused On Southern Border

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President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says Mexico's tightening of immigration controls has focused "more than anything" on regulating entries at its southern border.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 Meanwhile, along the US Mexico border, the Mexican government is preparing to send 15,000 troops to its northern border to prevent migrants from coming into the u s Max. Rivlin Adler has been covering the story and joined us with details. Max, welcome. Good to be here. Tell me, why is Mexico taking this unprecedented step to keep migrants from coming to the u s

Speaker 2: 00:23 this stems from an agreement that Mexico made earlier this month with the Trump administration after a, the president threatened tariffs against Mexico. As part of that agreement, Mexico agreed that within 45 days, it would take a significant measures to deter the flow of migrants across its southern border and into, uh, the United States through Mexico. That mission has been somewhat expanded to now include it's northern border, uh, where it is now sending troops to deter people from crossing into the u s

Speaker 1: 00:56 6,500 national garden members have been deployed to the southern border of Mexico, but more than twice that amount are a deployed to the northern border. Do you know how many troops will be in Tijuana?

Speaker 2: 01:07 It's unclear right now. Although, uh, yesterday the incoming governor of Tiawana, I'm a Bonia, said that Tijuana was the highest priority for the troops that are being sent to the northern border. So we could probably expect that to be a significant amount of troops right across the border here.

Speaker 1: 01:26 Can you tell me what happens to migrants once they encounter Mexican troops?

Speaker 2: 01:31 Um, well first off they have their identification looked at, they get checked to see if they are indeed from Central America or you know any of, there's three countries where the most of migrants are coming from at this moment. Then they are transferred over to the Immigration Institute, which has been handling the asylum seekers as they stay in Mexico. At that point they're either given some documentation to stay in Mexico. A lot of them have been deported from Mexico and return to their home countries. It's really unclear what the numbers are for who gets to stay, who gets sent back to their home country and who is allowed to stay and work and a and weighed out the time it will take them to deal with their asylum claim.

Speaker 1: 02:15 I mean, and, and are those people able to seek asylum in the United States?

Speaker 2: 02:19 Yeah, I mean, this is a huge issue, right? You have people trying to cross the border, uh, at ports of entry where they're being denied a, there's a metering system in place that we've been seeing over the past few months where people have to put their names on these informal lists and wait and wait and wait. Uh, so in response, people have been crossing outside of ports of entry, hopping the fence, swimming through rivers, a swimming out into the ocean, outside of the border fence here in San Diego. You know, this is, it hasn't resolved itself. People are still coming. The flows are still quite heavy of micro of migrants coming across Mexico southern border. And at the end of the day, they're having to wait weeks, months, or even years to have their asylum claims processed. And that's if they make it to the u s

Speaker 1: 03:03 yeah. We also saw a very disturbing image of a father and his daughter who had drowned and the Rio Grande, uh, their bodies were found along the shoreline. We've heard horror stories of the conditions inside us detention centers where children are being detained. Is there any sense of how having Mexican troops at the border, uh, may mitigate the situation?

Speaker 2: 03:22 Right. So I'm the father and daughter who were in that, uh, you know, horrible photograph. They were people who had tried earlier in the week to cross at a port of entry at Matamoros and to cross into Brownsville. They were denied entry by the u s and then they took their chance crossing the Rio Grande and trying to get to the u s that way. One thing that the national guard of Mexico, which is a newly created, um, armed force has been doing is actively stopping people from entering the river. There were photographs also from over the weekend of the national guard, literally grabbing a two women and a young girl as they tried to cross the Rio Grande, um, and preventing them from doing that. So that is a new role for the Mexican armed forces to prevent people from crossing. And it's something that they have only entered into pretty reluctantly because they've resisted that for years. And in fact, the president of Mexico has said just last year that he does not want to do the dirty work for the United States when it comes to immigration enforcement.

Speaker 1: 04:25 And how is this being received again by migrants and citizens of Mexico?

Speaker 2: 04:29 Just yesterday, uh, a resident of Tijuana was complaining that Federal Police and national guardsmen had asked for his id. People are being searched when they are citizens of Mexico. So they're not really, they're not comfortable with the intrusion in their lives that the armed forces have. There's a long history of the Mexican army being used domestically, uh, in terms of going after drug cartels and things like that, that, that has done really poorly for communities across Mexico. So there's a lot of trepidation. That being said, um, in Tijuana over the past few months, there's been growing frustration over the lack of the federal government on taking action to deal with the thousands and thousands of migrants that have flooded into the city, a just corrupting daily life for the residents of Tijuana. So this is a mixed bag for them. I think it's a wait and see approach to, and especially if the border itself becomes even further militarized, it'll really make life difficult for people who have to cross back and forth every single day.

Speaker 1: 05:33 And when are the troops expected to be along the border for and for how long?

Speaker 2: 05:37 So they announced yesterday that they're going to be getting here on Friday. There's already federal police and national guardsmen who are into Ana and, um, the mission is open ended. There's no idea how long they're going to be there. Of course, the national guard, which was just created this year, by then, you know, incoming Mexican president has an open ended mission. They all will be there for as long as a, there is this migrant crisis. And then on top of that, their role is also to, um, counter rising levels of violence in Tijuana, which you know, is not going to be solved over night. Uh, so this seems like it's going to be a longterm thing. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter Max Rivlin Adler Max. Thank you. Thank you.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.