It remained unclear Saturday whether Mexico would make good on a high-ranking official’s prediction that the nation would send roughly 15,000 newly formed National Guard troops to the entirety of the U.S.-Mexico border this weekend to prevent migrants and asylum seekers from entering the United States.
Mexican Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval Gonzalez announced Monday that the country would deploy its newly formed National Guard — composed of federal law enforcement and members of Mexico’s army and navy — along the full length of the U.S.-Mexico border from Tijuana to the state of Tamaulipas, which lies adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico and McAllen, Texas.
Few details were offered, however.
On Friday, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that some troops with an arm band that said “GN” were spotted in Mexicali, but no members of the brand-new National Guard were seen on the other side of the San Diego border.
Incoming Baja California Governor Jaime Bonilla said Wednesday that a first batch of about 500 members of the National Guard was scheduled to arrive in the Tijuana area Friday, but it was unclear if those 500 guards are part of a 2,000-member pilot program of National Guard troops previously sent to Tijuana, as announced in March.
Isaias Bertin Sandoval, Mexico’s secretary of security and citizen protection, said the National Guard will begin operations in Tijuana on Monday, according to the Union-Tribune. He said the troops were already there and were looking for a place to stage on the border.
Immigration shelters and advocacy groups in San Diego County have been overwhelmed for the better part of nine months assisting migrants and asylum seekers who are released into the county while they await a hearing for their asylum claims.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began flying detained asylum-seeking immigrants from Texas’ Rio Grande Valley to San Diego due to an immigration crush in the valley. According to DHS and Customs and Border Protection, federal immigration agents have detained an average of 4,500 immigrants in the area each day this year.
Shortly after DHS began flying detainees to San Diego for processing, a flu outbreak spread at a local migrant shelter in Bankers Hill, operated by Jewish Family Service of San Diego.
To date, county health officials have screened several thousand migrants and confirmed more than 230 cases of “influenza-like illness” at the shelter, where many migrants and asylum seekers end up while they await the next step in their immigration process.
The Mexican government deployed federal troops to its southern border with Guatemala earlier this month, also an attempt to stem an unprecedented wave of migration by people fleeing violence and persecution in countries like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
The announcement came amid pressure from President Donald Trump to slow illegal immigration through the border.
Earlier this month, Trump threatened to implement a 5 percent tariff on all Mexican imports until the country cracked down on immigration. The tariffs could have risen as high as 25 percent by Oct. 1, drawing consternation from U.S. business advocacy groups and members of Congress.
Trump relented from the threat days before the tariffs would have gone into effect, in part because Mexican officials reiterated their intent to deploy National Guard troops to the country’s northern and southern borders. The Mexican government first agreed to do so in March during secret negotiations with then-Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, according to a report by the New York Times.
–City News Service