Mexico detains 108 in immigration sweep; most from Central America
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican authorities said on Saturday they detained 108 undocumented immigrants along highways, at bus stations and on a cargo train route that thousands of Central Americans use every year to cross Mexico and enter the United States illegally.
Ninety five Central Americans, mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, were detained in the southern states of Oaxaca and Tabasco during sweeps by federal police in the last 24 hours, Mexico's migration institute said in a statement.
Seven of the Central Americans were children, the institute said.
An increasing number of Central Americans are sneaking across Mexico's largely unpoliced southern border en route to the United States. Migrants have been spurred on by rampant poverty and rising drug gang violence in their home countries.
Citizens of other countries are also risking the dangerous route across southern Mexico. Eight people from India and five from Bangladesh were also detained in the southern Mexican police sweeps.
President Barack Obama will travel to Mexico and Central America later this week, and his talks with leaders will likely include prospects for a sweeping reform of U.S. immigration laws and efforts to reduce the tide of undocumented immigrants.
The U.S. Senate, which is controlled by Obama's Democrats, is pushing ahead on a bi-partisan bill that would bolster border security and put 11 million people living illegally in the United States on a 13-year path to citizenship.
The legislation, however, faces a challenge in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.
The number of undocumented Central Americans deported from the United States has risen in recent years. Nearly 95,000 people from the region were deported from the United States last year compared to about 78,500 in 2011, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement data.
Most of the migrants were from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala where gang violence has increased in recent years.
Mass detentions of Central Americans in Mexico are common, but authorities have been criticized for lax enforcement at the border. Police are accused of exploiting migrants for bribes, while local gangs regularly kidnap migrants and seek ransoms from their relatives.
Another 120 Central Americans were detained in Oaxaca earlier this month. The migration institute said on April 3 it deported 66 Honduran children, most of whom were traveling with people who had been paid to take them across Mexico to the United States.
(Reporting by Michael O'Boyle; Editing by Paul Simao)