Mexico doubles migrant detentions with troop surge, White House says

FILE PHOTO: A U.S. Border Patrol vehicle clears the ground of past footprints to be able to see new traces of activity in Calexico, California, U.S., April 8, 2021. REUTERS/Allison Dinner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Mexico has doubled its detentions of migrants with a deployment of 10,000 troops to its southern border, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday, as Washington leans on regional governments to help slow arrivals at the U.S. border.

Reuters reported in March that Mexico had launched enforcement operations for rounding up immigrants transiting illegally toward the U.S. border, and stepped up its efforts along its border with Guatemala.

The operations include members of the National Guard, a militarized police force, along with soldiers and members of the navy and immigration officials. Mexico said on March 22 that it had close to 9,000 troops from the defense ministry, Navy and National Guard on its northern and southern borders.

A Mexican National Guard member deployed to the area said the force's daily arrest rate had doubled in recent weeks.

In January, just before U.S. President Joe Biden took office, Guatemala deployed security forces to halt a U.S.-bound caravan of migrants, and Guatemalan government officials have vowed to keep up the pressure. Honduras also deployed forces in response to a small U.S.-bound migrant caravan over Easter.

Earlier, White House aide Tyler Moran said the Biden administration secured agreements with Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala to put more troops on their own borders.

Moran appeared to have been referring to the March deployments.

Mexico's government said in a statement that it would maintain current troop numbers at its borders.

The Guatemalan presidency said security efforts at the border were implemented last year. When asked about Guatemala reaching an agreement with Washington on troop deployment, a spokesperson said, "there is no deal signed in this sense."

Honduran defense minister Fredy Santiago Diaz said his government was weighing its options on border troop numbers.

Deploying more troops was not discussed by a recent delegation to Washington, but Honduras would take U.S. requests to curb migration into account if it did, he told local radio.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Matt Spetalnick; Additional reporting by Laura Gottesdiener, Frank Jack Daniel and Dave Graham in Mexico City, Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa and Sofia Menchu in Guatemala City; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Howard Goller)

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