MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico's president acknowledged Friday that controls are lax at dozens of crossings at the country's southern border, vowing to correct the situation amid U.S. pressure to crack down on migration from Central America.
Flag of Mexico, Photo Date: 5/6/17 / Source: World's Direction via MGN
"We have identified 68 crossings like that, and in all of them there will be oversight," Andrés Manuel López Obrador said at a morning news conference, responding to questioning about checkpoints where cross-border traffic was seen coming and going freely.
The president, who took office Dec. 1, attributed the problem to residual corruption at the National Migration Institute and the customs agency and noted that more than 500 immigration workers have been let go as part of a purge.
"We are cleaning house, but this work takes time," López Obrador said.
Mexico has promised to deploy 6,000 members of its new, still-forming National Guard to control immigration in its southern border region with Guatemala as part of a recent agreement with the United States. U.S. President Donald Trump had threatened stiff tariffs on all imports from Mexico if the country didn't do more.
Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Friday the Guard deployment will be readied by Tuesday, along with 825 immigration agents and 200 officials from the country's welfare department.
But there has been no sign so far of any National Guard presence in the southern city of Tapachula, near Guatemala. Nor has there been any notable change at the Suchiate border river, where locals and migrants alike commonly cross.
Police and immigration had already stepped up enforcement in southern Mexico in recent months, setting up highway checkpoints, raiding a recent caravan of mostly Central American migrants and trying to keep people off the northbound train known as "the beast."
Ebrard called on the United Nations and the international community to help Mexico bring immigration under control and fight human trafficking.
"Do not leave us alone," Ebrard said. "Where is the international community? Central America needs to help us."
He added that many countries kept silent during Mexico's talks with the United States in which the threatened tariffs were suspended last week.
The governors of the southern Mexican states of Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Veracruz and Oaxaca were also present at the Friday press conference and promised to support the federal government's immigration plan as it rolls out.
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