…As Caravan of 1,200 migrants enters Mexico in June, heading to US***
US authorities detained or blocked more than 144,000 migrants at the border with Mexico in May, up 32 percent since April as Central Americans flock to the United States seeking asylum, official figures showed Wednesday.
Customs and Border Protection officials said most of the migrants were families from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and the total included some 57,718 children.
The total number of migrants detained in the past month was nearly triple that of a year ago, underscoring the surge that has overwhelmed border agents and sparked a deep crisis in US relations with Mexico, which Washington has accused of abetting the immigrant flow.
“We are in a full-blown emergency. The system is broken,” said CBP Acting Commissioner John Sanders.
The numbers were released hours before top Mexican officials were to meet with Vice President Mike Pence over President Donald Trump’s threat to impose steep tariffs on Mexican goods starting Monday if it doesn’t do something to keep the migrants from reaching the US frontier.
Sanders said there had been no let-up in the numbers of border crossers in the first days of June, and that the Border Patrol now has nearly 19,000 migrants in custody.
Officials said that the pace of arrivals of undocumented migrants — 677,000 in the first eight months of the fiscal year — is the highest since 2006, when single men from Mexico were the main migrants, compared to families from Central America today.
Sanders said more were arriving in large groups, including one single group of 1,036 which arrived in El Paso, Texas on May 29, the day before Trump announced his tariff threat.
Underlining the extent of the crisis, officials said that other nationalities from around the world are joining the trek from Central America to the southern US border.
That included a single group of 117 people from sub-Saharan Africa, including Angolans and Cameroonians, detained at Del Rio, Texas last week.
Meanwhile, a caravan of around 1,200 Central American migrants, again bound for the United States, entered southern Mexico on Wednesday, police have said, even as President Donald Trump threatened Mexico with tariffs if it fails to slow illegal immigration.
Authorities did not deter the large group of undocumented migrants who crossed the bridge over the Suchiate river, which forms the border between Guatemala and Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico.
A municipal police patrol monitored the migrants — who were mostly from Honduras — but did not stop them as they began walking along the side of the road in the southern state of Chiapas toward the city of Tapachula.
Mexico has deployed its new National Guard police force to the southern border and stepped up detentions and deportations in a bid to slow the flow of migrants crossing its territory toward the United States.
But migrant detentions at the US-Mexican border still increased by 32 per cent month-on-month in May, to more than 144,000, according to US Customs and Border Protection.
That has provoked the wrath of the US president, who threatened last week to apply tariffs of five per cent on all Mexican exports starting Monday, and rising incrementally to 25 per cent by October.
A high-level delegation led by Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard was due to meet with US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later Wednesday to seek a deal to avoid the tariffs.
The number of migrants crossing Mexico toward the United States has surged in recent months. They are mainly Central Americans fleeing poverty and violence, often travelling in families — and sometimes in large caravans travelling together for safety.
Central American countries are working on a regional plan to slow the exodus of people fleeing poverty and brutal gang violence that have made El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras among the most dangerous countries in the world.
At a meeting of regional bloc SICA in Guatemala City, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said the countries of Central America had “worked very intensely to develop a plan of action to fully attend to migration in the region.”
He did not give details on the forthcoming plan, or say when it would be published.
Additional report from AFP