The Biden administration has struck an agreement with Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras to temporarily increase border security in an effort to stop migrants from reaching the US border.
The agreement comes as the US saw a record number of unaccompanied children attempting to cross the border in March, and the largest number of border patrol encounters overall with migrants on the southern border – just under 170,000 – since March 2001.
According to the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, Mexico will maintain a deployment of about 10,000 troops, while Guatemala has sent 1,500 police and military personnel to its southern border and Honduras deployed 7,000 police and military to its border “to disperse a large contingent of migrants” there. Guatemala will also set up 12 checkpoints along the migratory route through the country.
Security forces in all three countries have been frequently accused of using excessive violence against migrants, and targeting them for extortion and robbery.
A White House official said Guatemala and Honduras were deploying troops temporarily in response to a large caravan of migrants that was being organized at the end of March. The Mexican government announced an increase in security and its troop deployment in March.
Psaki said that “the objective is to make it more difficult to make the journey, and make crossing the borders more difficult”.
She added that the agreement was the product of “a series of bilateral discussions” between US officials and the governments of the Central American nations. The increase in migrants at the border is becoming one of the major challenges confronting Biden in the early months of his first term.
Migrants from Central America and Mexico are fleeing rampant corruption, organized crime, as well as hunger caused by failing crops and the impact of climate change. The right to claim asylum is enshrined in international and US laws.
Numbers grew sharply during Trump’s final year in office but further accelerated under Biden, who quickly ended many of his predecessor’s policies, including one that made asylum seekers wait in Mexico for court hearings in the US.
Previously militarized attempts to prevent movement in the region have not reduced the number of people traveling north through Mexico, but instead forced migrants to take riskier routes through remote regions, and exposed them to a heightened risk of robbery, rape, abduction and death.
Mexicans represented the largest proportion of people encountered by the US border patrol, and nearly all were single adults. Arrivals of people from Honduras and Guatemala were second and third, respectively, and more than half of the people from those countries were families or children traveling alone.
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