Last year, Mexico detained over 190,000 migrants, more than double the number in 2012
Mexican immigration officers talk with a man whom they suspect to be an illegal immigrant during a search operation in Zapopan near Guadalajara, Mexico July 29, 2014. REUTERS/Alejandro Acosta/File Photo, photo: Reuters/Alejandro Acosa, File
10 of June 2016 10:44:02
TAPACHULA, Mexico/WASHINGTON — Mexico is struggling to stem the flow of Central American migrants traveling to the United States ahead of the U.S. presidential election, causing major concern in Washington, which is weighing sending more agents to help.In 2014, Mexico moved to strengthen its southern border when a surge in child migrants from Central America sparked a political crisis in the United States.Last year, Mexico detained over 190,000 migrants, more than double the number in 2012.But official data shows that fewer migrants have been captured in Mexico this year even as the number caught on the U.S. border has soared.[caption id="attachment_21693" align="alignright" width="300"] A Salvadoran father (R) carries his son while running next to another immigrant as they try to board a train heading to the Mexican-U.S. border, in Huehuetoca, near Mexico City, June 1, 2015. Photo: Reuters/Edgard Garrido, File[/caption]The slowdown in detentions on Mexican soil is frustrating U.S. officials who feel that Mexico could be doing more, according to a source familiar with internal briefings on the topic at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).Illegal immigration is stoking a fierce debate ahead of the U.S. election on Nov. 8 with Republican candidate Donald Trump vowing to deport millions of people and build a wall along the Mexican border if elected president.Mexico says its National Migration Institute (INM), which regulates migration in the country, is already working flat out to contain the problem, but it has a fraction of the resources that U.S. agencies have."We're at the limit of our resources," Humberto Roque Villanueva, Mexico's deputy interior minister responsible for migration, said.The number of families stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border jumped 122 percent between October 2015 and April 2016 from the same period a year earlier, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).The number of detained "unaccompanied minors" — children traveling without relatives — was 74 percent higher. Most of the Central Americans come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.[caption id="attachment_21694" align="alignleft" width="300"] Central American migrants rest next to the train tracks while waiting for the freight train "La Bestia," or the Beast, to travel to north Mexico to reach and cross the U.S. border, at Arriaga in the state of Chiapas, January 10, 2012. Photo: Reuters/Jorge Luis Plata, File[/caption]Despite those increases, fewer migrants are being caught as they move through Mexico. Over the same period, Mexico detained and deported about 5 percent fewer people than in 2014-2015. So far this year, 3.5 percent fewer unaccompanied minors have been stopped.The DHS is considering sending more agents south to train Mexican officials on how to track human traffickers and stop migrants crossing the Mexico-Guatemala border, according to an internal briefing document obtained by Reuters.U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar, who sits on the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, said DHS officials told him they hope to help Mexico strengthen its southern border."When you're constantly working at full speed and don't have all the resources because your primary mission is to fight the drug cartels, yeah, you're going to be stretched," Cuellar said.DHS spokesman Daniel Hetlage declined to say whether it aimed to send more officers to work with the INM, but said the DHS and CBP have an "excellent" relationship with the INM and Mexico's government.Roque Villanueva attributed the migrant surge to people finding new routes past checkpoints. He said he was unaware of any U.S. plan to send reinforcements, and that there are already U.S. agents at Mexico's southern border, albeit only for training.
GABRIEL STARGARDTERJULIA EDWARDS