MEXICO CITY, Mexico - Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says his country must help Central Americans fleeing poverty and violence.
López Obrador said in the northern state of Chihuahua over the weekend that the refusal to help foreigners in need is "anti-Christian," adding that "we can't turn our backs on them."
Mexico plans to deploy National Guard troops on Tuesday to its southern border with Guatemala as part of this month's agreement to slow the arrival of migrants to the U.S.
Mexico has offered asylum to migrants with credible fears as thousands remain in the country while they await court dates for asylum petitions in the U.S. The Mexican refugee commission faces a backlog of cases.
López Obrador is also lobbying for international development aid to help Central Americans stay in their countries of origin.
Mexico has offered refuge to migrants with credible fears as thousands remain in the country while they await court dates for asylum petitions in the U.S. The understaffed and underfunded Mexican refugee commission faces a backlog of cases.
But in recent months, police and immigration have stepped up enforcement in southern Mexico, setting up highway checkpoints, raiding a caravan of mostly Central American migrants and trying to keep people off the northbound train known as "the beast."
At the same time, Mexicans have grown increasingly intolerant of the large numbers of migrants passing through their country in an attempt to reach the U.S.
A June poll in Mexican newspaper El Universal showed that Mexicans are less receptive to allowing undocumented migrants to come in, or to stay on permanently as refugees, than they were in October, when caravans with thousands of Central American migrants were winding their way north.
A majority of Mexicans that participated in the survey said they favor barring entry to migrants who try cross into Mexico without visas, and a majority now say that Mexico should not offer them refugee status.
Mexico's southern border is porous and difficult to patrol, with dense jungle and rivers.
On Friday, a sociologist who served as Mexico's immigration chief resigned and was replaced by the country's director of prisons. Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said an additional 825 immigration agents will be sent to the southern border next week.
Alejandro Murat, governor of the southern state of Oaxaca, applauded the stepped up enforcement and controls. "For the first time, there will be order on the southern border that will allow us to have the identity and control of who is in the national territory," said Murat.