Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala have agreed to deploy troops to their borders to slow the movement of migrants trying to get into the United States, a Biden administration official said on Monday.
“We’ve secured agreements for them to put more troops on their own border,” Tyler Moran, a special assistant to President Joe Biden for immigration policy told the MSNBC news outlet.
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“That not only is going to prevent the traffickers and the smugglers, and cartels that take advantage of the kids on their way here, but also to protect those children,” Moran said.
The US Border Patrol is struggling with an increase in the numbers of people trying to cross the southwest US border because of violence, poverty, natural disasters and a lack of access to food in Central America and Mexico.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) caught 172,000 people trying to cross the border in March, a 71 percent increase over the prior month.
Most of those caught crossing were single adults and the CBP expelled 104,000 according to the latest data.
Many of those apprehended at the border, however – 19,000 in March alone – were unaccompanied children who have begun to overfill CBP detention facilities and the housing capacity of the Health and Human Services Department (HHS).
Mexico has agreed to maintain 10,000 troops at its border, Honduras sent 7,000 troops to disperse an emerging caravan of migrants and Guatemala placed 1,500 troops on its border with Honduras, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday.
Biden has proposed comprehensive immigration reform legislation to the US Congress but the bill has not been taken up for action by lawmakers. The bill would provide a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US. Republicans and Democrats are far apart on the issue.
US Republicans and some Democrats have been critical of the Biden administration’s handling of the border since he took office in January.
Biden has sought to reverse the “family separation” and “remain in Mexico” asylum policies of his predecessor in an effort to implement a more humane immigration process consistent with US law.
Republicans say Biden has encouraged a massive new inflow of migrants trying to get into the US that risks greater drug smuggling, human trafficking and more COVID-19 infections.
Biden last week lost one of his top experts on Central American migration. Roberta Jacobson, a former US ambassador to Mexico, who had been serving as an assistant to the president and coordinator for the southwest border will leave at the end of April.
The White House said Jacobson’s departure was “consistent with her commitment at the outset to serve in the administration’s first 100 days”.
The White House credited Jacobson with launching renewed efforts to address migration with Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras leading in part to today’s announced troop agreements, Psaki said.
Biden has asked Vice President Kamala Harris to lead his administration’s work with those countries while Biden seeks to reverse the prior Trump administration’s dismantling of the US immigration system.
Among the steps Biden is taking are investments in the Central American countries that are the sources of most of the migration.
“We’re addressing the reasons that people are coming from the region. This is really important. If you just focus on our border, you’re not addressing why people are actually coming to our border,” Moran told MSNBC.