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  • Lopez Obrador, an anti-establishment leftist who came to office in December vowing to protect migrants' rights, has been pushed into a more hardline stance by Trump.

    Lopez Obrador, an anti-establishment leftist who came to office in December vowing to protect migrants' rights, has been pushed into a more hardline stance by Trump. | Photo: Reuters

Published 25 June 2019

Lopez Obrador insists Mexican forces are not at the border to detain migrants trying to reach the United States.

Mexico's president says the 15,000 newly dispatched National Guard his government has deployed to the United States border do not have orders to stop migrants from crossing. He vows to investigate a controversial case of guard members illegally detaining Central Americans at the northern border late last week.

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"No such order has been issued and we are going to review that case, so that it doesn't happen again, because that's not our job," President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) told a Tuesday press conference.

His statement followed the publication of images picturing heavily armed National Guards forcibly detaining two women and a young girl at the edge of the Rio Grande River which triggered indignation across Mexico. The government there has been bowing to pressure from Washington, taking measures to slow a surge of Central American migrants into the U.S. or face hefty tariffs on its exports to the U.S.

However, contrary to AMLO's statements, Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval confirmed the recent deployment of National Guards and army troops to Mexico's northern border for the purpose of detaining and preventing migrants from crossing into the country.

"Given that migration is not a crime, but rather an administrative violation, we simply detain them and turn them over (to immigration authorities,)" Sandoval told members of the press during a joint conference with the president.

Still AMLO insists Mexican forces are not there to detain migrants who try to cross the border.

"Those are not the instructions they have. They are not there to do that job. That is the work of the migration authorities, not the army," said the head of state to reporters. "We are going to deal with this matter so that no abuses are committed."

Nevertheless, he added: "We have to avoid a confrontation with the government of the United States."

Trump threatened last month to impose progressive tariffs, starting at five percent, on all Mexican goods if the government did not do more to slow migration of refugee seekers.

After a week of tense negotiations in Washington, the two sides announced a deal June 7 in which Mexico agreed to reinforce its southern border with 6,000 National Guard and expand its agreement to take in U.S. asylum seekers while their papers are being processed by U.S. authorities.

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