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Mexico Promises To Slow Down The Flow Of Migrants


Now to Mexico's southern border with Guatemala, where thousands of would-be migrants regularly cross into Mexico hoping to get to the United States. Mexico has promised to tighten border security there. Reporter James Fredrick is with us now from about 30 minutes north of the Guatemalan border from the city of Tapachula.

James, thanks so much for talking to us.

JAMES FREDERICK: Thanks, Michel.

MARTIN: Now, you've been reporting along the border all day. What have you seen?

FREDERICK: Well, I was at the actual border this morning. It's a river that divides Mexico and Guatemala. And there was no presence of authorities there. So there are these inflatable rafts that carry people and goods across the river, and they were traveling without a problem across the river. So I saw several groups of migrants cross this morning. But things change as you move north on highways here.

So I'm currently at a highway checkpoint. There's about a dozen Mexican migration officers, as well as Mexican Army and Mexican police. And they're stopping every van and bus that comes by here and checking it for undocumented migrants.

MARTIN: So tell us a little bit more, if you would, about what happens to travelers who arrive at those checkpoints.

FREDERICK: So I'm watching it happen right now. So every bus and van that comes through here, they stop. A migration agent gets onboard. And basically, they told me what they're doing is they are just trying to identify someone who they think might be a migrant. So that means someone who looks different or sounds different because Honduran and Salvadoran accents are quite distinct from Mexican accents.

And, you know, just a few minutes ago, I watched them take two teenage boys off a van. The teenage boy said, no, we're Mexican. They kept asking them questions and questions. And eventually, they decided, no. You know, this story doesn't check out. These boys are not Mexican. They put them into an armored van, and they took them to the local immigration detention center.

MARTIN: And, James, one of the big promises Mexico made to the Trump administration in this latest agreement is that it would use its national guard to slow down the flow of migrants. Can you tell us any more about that? Like, how is that supposed to work?

FREDERICK: Well, the first question is if the national guard is even operating yet. So it is a brand-new security force. It's not clear yet if national guardspeople (ph) have actually been trained yet. Officials have kind of bounced back and forth. So some are saying, now there's going to be 6,000 national guard members here reinforcing the southern border by tomorrow, Monday. And others have said, no, we're not sure. But one thing I will say is that asking the migration agents here, they said they would welcome the national guard here on the border because they want someone to, you know, actually close the southern border and stop people from crossing in so easily.

MARTIN: And finally, I was going to ask you about that - this - are there other steps that Mexico is trying to take or would like to take to stop this flow of migrants through their country?

FREDERICK: Well, the actual border between Guatemala and Mexico is an obvious place if they want to stop people coming through that they could block access. And having more agents down here, whether they're national guard or someone else, I mean, would certainly result in more detentions of migrants. Really, the question right now and the thing that I'm seeing is that the local immigration detention center here is at more than double capacity right now.

So there is definitely a question - if Mexico really does step up the number of migrants it stops here, does it have the resources to take care of them? And then, for those who need protection - those fleeing persecution - do they have the ability and the willingness to protect those people?

MARTIN: That is reporter James Frederick on the Mexican side of the Guatemala-Mexico border. He's actually about 30 miles north of the border at the moment.

James, thanks so much for talking to us.

FREDERICK: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.