Mexico president to further beef up migration enforcement, open child shelters

MEXICO CITY, April 21 (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manual Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday the government was working on a plan to boost enforcement at its southern border to control the flow of U.S.-bound migrants, including opening more shelters for children.

Lopez Obrador said he would share details about the plan next week after meeting with officials from southern states.

“We have made the decision to reinforce actions on the southern border,” he told reporters.

Changes to U.S. policies on deporting minors along with a new Mexican law that prohibits holding children in migration detention centers have helped encourage families and smugglers to move children northwards.

While he gave few details, Lopez Obrador outlined a plan that appeared to be additional to operations in the south of the country first reported by Reuters last month.

Lopez Obrador suggested the government was seeking to increase capacity to process children in the south of the country to return them home.

He said Mexico’s family social services agency, DIF, would establish the new shelters for the protection of children.

There was now about one child crossing the border for every three or four adult migrants, Lopez Obrador said at a regular news conference.

“They charge a lot for people to pass and now they use children. It is the most inhumane, cruel thing that can be,” he said of human smugglers.

Mexico has urged Central Americans not to take children along to facilitate their passage over concerns they were being used by smugglers to make it easier for migrants to transit Mexico.

“I do not want to give numbers but we are going to work with more intensity on the southern border,” Lopez Obrador said in response to a question about forces on the border.

Earlier in April, Mexico said it deployed at least 12,000 officials in southern Mexico to deal with an increase in migrant arrivals.

Lopez Obrador said the Defense Ministry, the Navy, National Guard, and the Public Security Ministry, along with the Health Ministry and DIF, were among those taking part in the operations.

Reporting by Cassandra Garrison and Raul Cortes; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Steve Orlofsky