By Dave Graham
MEXICO CITY, Mexico, Weds. March 24, 2021 (Reuters) – Mexico and the United States discussed ways to protect migrants on Tuesday, officials said, even as Mexico’s human rights watchdog flagged risks to a new militarized drive to deter Central Americans from entering its territory.
U.S. President Joe Biden sent envoys, including his border coordinator Roberta Jacobson, to Mexico to discuss how to tackle a recent jump in migrant arrivals at the U.S. border that have put the new Democratic administration under mounting pressure.
Led for Mexico by Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, the talks highlighted “humanitarian actions” to promote economic development in Central America to mitigate the root causes of migration, the Mexican foreign ministry said in a statement.
U.S. officials are struggling to house and process an increasing number of unaccompanied children, many of whom have been stuck in jail-like border stations for days while they await placement in overwhelmed government-run shelters.
Ebrard said after the meeting that talks would be ongoing, and ultimately aimed to agree on measures that would allow people from Central America and southern Mexico to have a “different future” that would remove the need to migrate.
Officials also discussed different mechanisms for “orderly and safe” migration, and the protection of human rights, particularly those of children.
While those discussions were underway, Mexico has also been stepping up operations led by militarized police and soldiers in the south of the country aimed at deterring thousands of Central Americans coming north as they attempt to escape recession, violence and the effects of devastating hurricanes.
Mexico’s national human rights commission (CNDH) has demanded the rights of migrants be respected during the new enforcement push, in which security forces are employing drones and night vision goggles to catch people entering the country.
In a statement Tuesday, the CNDH said it would ensure the actions of the authorities strictly adhere to legal norms.
There was no immediate comment from the White House on the outcome of the discussions with Mexico. Further U.S. talks on migration are due to take place in Guatemala.
U.S. envoy Jacobson later released a statement calling on migrants not to head for the United States.
“I know that many migrants may be enduring pain and hardships, but I must emphasize that the United States border is closed. Don’t take the dangerous journey,” Jacobson said.
Earlier, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador again urged Washington to help spur development in Central America.
“People don’t go to the United States for fun, they go out of necessity,” Lopez Obrador told a news conference.
For years, the bulk of people seeking to cross illegally into the United States have come from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and the poorer regions of southern Mexico.
The U.S. government said on Monday it would work with Mexico and Central America to mitigate the causes of migration.
Jacobson was joined by Juan Gonzalez, the National Security Council’s senior director for the Western Hemisphere, and Ricardo Zuniga, the first U.S. special envoy for Central America since the Cold War-era conflicts of the 1980s.
Biden has vowed to adopt a more humanitarian policy towards migrants than his Republican predecessor Donald Trump.
Mexico has welcomed Biden’s efforts, but says the change in policy has also encouraged people to think that it is now easier to enter the United States.
(Reporting by Dave Graham; additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington; writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel, Grant McCool and Richard Pullin)