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Mexico Reinforces Border Checks        06/17 06:14

   Mexico's National Migration Institute said 1,000 immigration agents had been 
deployed in the north and south of Mexico. The deployment comes as Mexico faces 
heightened pressure from the U.S. to reduce the surge of mostly Central 
American migrants through its territory. 

   COMITAN, Mexico (AP) -- Mexican authorities increased immigration 
enforcement along well-traveled routes for migrants in southern Mexico over the 
weekend, checking identifications, pulling migrants off public transport and 
intercepting four trucks packed with nearly 800 migrants.

   The National Migration Institute said 1,000 immigration agents had been 
deployed in the north and south of Mexico. The deployment comes as Mexico faces 
heightened pressure from the U.S. to reduce the surge of mostly Central 
American migrants through its territory. Mexico plans to position 6,000 
National Guard troops by Tuesday to its southern border with Guatemala.

   The Associated Press saw nearly 10 armed soldiers at a checkpoint near 
Ciudad Cuauhtmoc, in Chiapas state, wearing black armbands to indicate they are 
part of the National Guard. The soldiers stopped vehicles while immigration 
officials checked identification and removed passengers without documents. At 
another checkpoint just north of Comitn in Chiapas, more than a dozen apparent 
National Guardsmen drove around backroads in the rain and dark, looking for 
migrants and human smugglers.

   In the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, the National Migration Institute said 
791 people were taken Saturday to a migration facility and that drivers of the 
tractor-trailer trucks transporting them were arrested.

   Migrants are routinely transported through Mexico in packed semis, sometimes 
in dangerous conditions without food or water or sufficient fresh air. 
Government video showed officials breaking the lock on the door of one cargo 
truck and helping migrants out.

   The institute described the detentions and arrests in Veracruz as part of a 
strategy implemented by its new commissioner, Francisco Garduo. The former 
prisons director assumed the post Friday, taking over for a sociologist and 
academic.

   Military police wearing National Guard armbands were also patrolling Sunday 
along the Suchiate River that separates Mexico from Guatemala. In prior days, 
migrants were seen being ferried across the river by raft without interference 
from immigration or other Mexican officials.

   Outside Comitn on Sunday, some roadblocks and checkpoints were manned by 
multiple soldiers and police identifying as National Guard.

   At one checkpoint, immigration agent Jos Angel Ramrez welcomed the help of 
the National Guard.

   "We don't have a way to stop so many and the traffickers pass everywhere," 
said Ramrez, who was accompanied by a dozen National Guard officers.

   Nearby, five Hondurans found traveling without papers were sitting in a 
holding cell.

   One of the Hondurans, a farmer named Armando who was traveling with a 
daughter and nephew, broke into tears while saying he'd be killed if returned 
to his country.

   After several hours, the Hondurans were transported to a Mexican detention 
center for migrants.

   The Mexican National Guard is a new security force created by President 
Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador, who took office Dec. 1. The security force is still 
taking shape and was originally established with the goal of stemming endemic 
violence. Last year saw the highest number of murders in at least 20 years in 
Mexico.

   Mexican soldiers have long been authorized to search vehicles for drugs or 
weapons, explained one of the newly minted National Guard officers, who 
declined to give his name. Now, he said, they can detain drivers or others 
suspected of helping the undocumented move through Mexico.

   Comitn locals say that trucks often bypass area checkpoints at night. "We 
don't know what they have inside," said immigration agent Julio Velasco. 
Mexican officials have set up additional roadblocks in recent days to cover 
more territory.

   Luis Guillermo Lechuga, who sells vests near one of the checkpoints, was 
skeptical that the increased security presence will reduce the flow of migrants 
through Comitn and surrounding areas.

   "Everything will be the same," said Lechuga, who expressed a mixture of 
sympathy and annoyance with the travelers. "Nobody leaves their country without 
problems." 


(KA)

 
 
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