Mexico, under intense pressure from the Trump administration to reduce migration flows, is deploying nearly 15,000 troops to its northern border in an unprecedented effort to stop immigrants from reaching US soil.
Mexican Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval said Monday the troops and members of the country’s national guard would be deployed to the entire length of the border from Tijuana, Baja California, to Matamoros, Tamaulipas.
After the Trump administration gave Mexico 45 days to reduce the number of immigrants reaching the US border, primarily from Central America, Mexican officials said they would deploy the country’s recently created national guard to its southern border. The US has threatened Mexico with tariffs if it does not do more to stem the flow of immigrants, but didn’t provide a specific goal or metric.
Monday’s press conference appeared to mark the first time Mexican officials have disclosed they were sending troops to its border with the US. It follows recent photos from the AFP news agency showing armed members of the Mexican national guard stopping immigrants in Ciudad Juárez from reaching the US.
Undocumented “immigration is not a crime, it’s an administrative violation,” Sandoval said. “We simply detain them and turn them over to [immigration] authorities.”
Adam Isacson, director for defense oversight at the Washington Office on Latin America, said Mexico has never come close to deploying this many soldiers to stop immigrants.
“A huge deployment, without modern precedent,” Isacson told BuzzFeed News. “By comparison, Mexico sent 30,000 to 40,000 troops to Chiapas to fight the Zapatista uprising in 1994.”
Christopher Wilson, deputy director of the Mexico Institute, also described the move as unprecedented. Historically, he said, Mexico has resisted US pressure to engage in immigration enforcement since the immigrants were predominately its own citizens and in no violation of Mexican law.
“Further, migration enforcement has always been the task of INM (Mexico’s National Immigration Institute) officials, not the military,” Wilson told BuzzFeed News. “The military has routinely provided physical security at border crossings, but it has not been involved in migration enforcement.”