Report: Mexico’s immigration enforcement depends on the military

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MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s increasingly militarized armed forces and the National Guard are now responsible for detaining more immigrants than immigration agents, according to a report released Tuesday by six non-governmental organizations.

Human rights and immigrant advocacy groups, including the Foundation for Justice and the Democratic State of Law, say many of the detainees have also resorted to arbitrary, racial profiling and abuse.

The armed forces are thought to be assisting immigration agents in their work, but agencies have noticed that they are now responsible for most of the detentions.

Between June 2019 and December 2020, the armed forces and the National Guard detained more than 152,000 immigrants on Mexico’s southern border, according to a public information request made by the Citizen Security Program at the University of Iberoamericana. At the same time, the Interior Ministry said 190,000 migrants had been referred to immigration authorities.

Mexico is already moving towards increasing reliance on the military, but reports say it has accelerated under President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. In 2019, under pressure from then-US President Donald Trump, Lopez Obrador deployed the newly formed National Guard, a security force that was theoretically civilian, but in reality under military control.

At the time, the private sector and the United Nations expressed concern that further militarization would lead to the abuse of transition. Even the leadership of the National Immigration Institute was changed, replacing the head of the Mexican prison with a sociologist who had attended school in immigration. Military officers were named to lead at least eight state offices at the institute, some retired.

Immigrants and women of African descent, in particular, have been subjected to discrimination, extortion and sexual abuse, the report said. Parties participating in the report have filed lawsuits in several cases.

One particular problem is mobile checkpoints along highways, which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional last week because they lead to ethnic profiling.

Last August, Secretary of Defense Luis Crescenio Sandoval said the main objectives of the army, navy and National Guard were to “stop all immigration” and “cover the northern border, the southern border with troops.”

U.S. Ambassador Ken Salazar said at a news conference last week that focusing on Mexico’s southern border and the narrow east just above it was “the key to solving the problems we now have about immigration flows,” noting that it was easy to do. Control a line 300 kilometers (186 miles) across the entire U.S.-Mexico border, which is 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) wide.

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