Mexico races to bolster southern border under US deal

Mexico City (AFP) –


Mexico said Friday it will complete the deployment of 6,000 National Guardsmen to its southern border in four days' time and send 825 additional immigration officers under its deal with the US to slow migration.

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico was "making a major effort to accelerate" implementation of the deal, which he struck last Friday in Washington in a last-minute bid to dodge President Donald Trump's threat to slap punitive tariffs on Mexican goods.

"The National Guard deployment will be complete by Tuesday next week," Ebrard told a press conference, saying Mexico was dealing with "one of the largest migrant flows in the world."

He added that 825 additional immigration officers from the National Migration Institute would start work this weekend, "because they didn't have enough personnel, and that has been one of the major problems."

Trump is pressuring Mexico to act to curb the surge of migrants fleeing poverty and violence in Central America and seeking asylum in the United States.

Speaking a week after using his tariff threat to goad the Mexican government into a promise of "unprecedented" action, Trump said his tactics were paying off.

"Big difference in the border between now and this time last week. Mexico has been doing a terrific job. Hey, 6,000 soldiers, and if it doesn't work out, then we go back to very strong measures," he said on the Fox News program "Fox and Friends."

"The stoppage is unbelievable and I got reports yesterday, it's like day and night."

He added, however, that if Mexico did not address the issue to his satisfaction, he would make it implement a "safe third country" agreement, in which migrants entering Mexican territory would have to seek asylum there rather than the US.

Mexico City has agreed to revisit that demand if Washington deems its progress on slowing the flow of migrants is insufficient after 45 days.

Mexico is scrambling to make sweeping changes at both its southern and northern borders to avoid another standoff with its key trading partner.

On the northern border, Mexico has agreed to expand its policy of taking back asylum-seekers while the United States processes their claims.

Governors from Mexico's northern border states were in the capital to meet President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on the issue.

Ebrard said Mexico "has not agreed to accept an unlimited number" of returnees, though he did not give further details.