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Under Pressure From U.S., Mexico Has Stepped Up Deportations Of Migrants


U.S. Customs and Border Protection released new data today on the number of migrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border. The figures show a more than 60% drop since May. The Trump administration has demanded that Mexico do more to stop migrants before they get to the U.S., and Mexico has. It has beefed up border controls and deported people in record numbers. But it is not clear how long Mexico can keep this up, as NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.


CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: On the Suchiate River that runs between Mexico and Guatemala, dozens of rafts made of large, inflatable rubber tires with wooden planks on top ferry riders across, hoping to avoid the official border checkpoint downstream. Passengers are shoppers from Guatemala heading north and Mexican vendors heading south.

WILLIAM SANDOVAL: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "We just live off the commerce now," says rafter William Sandoval (ph). "The migrants don't come this way anymore," he adds.

Mexico has stepped up enforcement all along the Suchiate. There are dozens of national guard troops here as well as immigration officials stationed right on the banks. They question visitors stepping off the rafts.

ANA-LAURA: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Spanish).

ANA-LAURA: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Ana-Laura (ph), who says she's not authorized to give her last name, works 24 hours on, 24 hours off. She's one of eight officials patrolling 16 miles of the river. She says traffic here has plummeted in recent months with the new enforcement.


KAHN: Even along this part of the river where there's a lot of enforcement, I just walked a couple hundred feet downriver from where I was talking to the immigration official and watched two large rafts pull up to the shore, people walk off. There was nobody to ask for their ID, and they just walked into Mexico.

But this Mexican immigration official, who says he wasn't authorized to speak to the press, says even if someone gets by them on the river, they won't get too far.


KAHN: "There are plenty of new checkpoints along the highways," he says.

Mexico has stepped up its deportations, too. In the first nine months of this year, authorities have deported nearly 118,000 migrants, mostly to Central America - a 30% increase over the same period last year. Human rights activists say the stepped-up enforcement has pushed migrants to make riskier crossings, like over mountains and in speedboats along the Pacific Coast.


KAHN: "The southern border of Mexico has become the most effective wall that Donald Trump wanted," says Enrique Vidal Olascoaga of the Fray Matias Human Rights Center. He says officials are unlawfully detaining migrants and deporting them without due process, all to appease the U.S. government. Immigration officials told NPR such accusations are untrue and they respect all migrants' rights.

But activists insist the new Mexican crackdown has strained migrants in desperate need of protection, delaying not deterring their trips to the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED BORDER OFFICIAL #1: Maria and Salma Garcia (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: At the gates of the small immigration office in the southern border town of Tapachula, dozens of people wait to be called in to pick up documents that will let them stay in Mexico legally.

MIGUEL CACHO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Miguel Cacho, a migrant from the Caribbean coast of Honduras, says he's been given the runaround for months here. "They keep telling me the machine to print my visa is broken, and, come back next month." Cacho says if the Mexicans don't help him out soon, he will head north to the U.S. border and take his chances there.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Tapachula, Mexico.

(SOUNDBITE OF THRUPENCE'S "FOLDS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on