U.S. dream pulls African migrants in record numbers across Latin America

FILE PHOTO: A migrant from Cameroon holds his baby while trying to enter the Siglo XXI immigrant detention center to request humanitarian visas, issued by the Mexican government, to cross the country towards the United States, in Tapachula, Mexico June 27, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Torres/File Photo

By Daina Beth Solomon

TAPACHULA, Mexico (Reuters) – Marilyne Tatang, 23, crossed nine borders in two months to reach Mexico from the West African nation of Cameroon, fleeing political violence after police torched her house, she said.

She plans to soon take a bus north for four days and then cross a tenth border, into the United States. She is not alone – a record number of fellow Africans are flying to South America and then traversing thousands of miles of highway and a treacherous tropical rainforest to reach the United States.

Tatang, who is eight months pregnant, took a raft across a river into Mexico on June 8, a day after Mexico struck a deal with U.S. President Donald Trump to do more to control the biggest flows of migrants heading north to the U.S. border in more than a decade.

The migrants vying for entry at the U.S. southern border are mainly Central Americans. But growing numbers from a handful of African countries are joining them, prompting calls from Trump and Mexico for other countries in Latin America to do their part to slow the overall flood of migrants.

As more Africans learn from relatives and friends who have made the trip that crossing Latin America to the United States is tough but not impossible, more are making the journey, and in turn are helping others follow in their footsteps, migration experts say.

Trump’s threats to clamp down on migrants have ricocheted around the globe, paradoxically spurring some to exploit what they see as a narrowing window of opportunity, said Michelle Mittelstadt, communications director for the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

“This message is being heard not just in Central America, but in other parts of the world,” she said.

Data from Mexico’s interior ministry suggests that migration from Africa this year will break records.

The number of Africans registered by Mexican authorities tripled in the first four months of 2019 compared with the same period a year ago, reaching about 1,900 people, mostly from Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which remains deeply unstable years after the end of a bloody regional conflict with its neighbors that led to the deaths of millions of people.

‘THEY WOULD HAVE KILLED ME’

Tatang, a grade school teacher, said she left northwest Cameroon due to worsening violence in the English-speaking region, where separatists are battling the mostly French-speaking government for autonomy.

“It was so bad that they burned the house where I was living … they would have killed me,” she said, referring to government forces who tried to capture her.

At first, Tatang planned only to cross the border into Nigeria. Then she heard that some people had made it to the United States.

“Someone would say, ‘You can do this,'” she said. ‘So I asked if it was possible for someone like me too, because I’m pregnant. They said, ‘Do this, do that.'”

Tatang begged her family for money for the journey, which she said so far has cost $5,000.

She said her route began with a flight to Ecuador, where Cameroonians don’t need visas. Tatang went by bus and on foot through Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala until reaching Mexico.

She was still deciding what to do once she got to Mexico’s northern border city of Tijuana, she said, cradling her belly while seated on a concrete bench outside migration offices in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula.

“I will just ask,” she said. “I can’t say, ‘When I get there, I will do this.’ I don’t know. I’ve never been there.”

Reuters spoke recently with five migrants in Tapachula who were from Cameroon, DRC and Angola. Several said they traveled to Brazil as a jumping-off point.

They were a small sampling of the hundreds of people – including Haitians, Cubans, Indians and Bangladeshis – clustered outside migration offices.

Political volatility in Cameroon and the DRC in recent years has displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

People from the DRC made up the third largest group of new refugees globally last year with about 123,000 people, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency, while Cameroon’s internally displaced population grew by 447,000 people.

The number of undocumented African migrants found by authorities in Mexico quadrupled compared to five years ago, reaching nearly 3,000 people in 2018.

Most obtain a visa that allows them free passage through Mexico for 20 days, after which they cross into the United States and ask for asylum.

Few choose to seek asylum in Mexico, in part because they don’t speak Spanish. Tatang said the language barrier was especially frustrating because she speaks only English, making communication difficult both with Mexican migration officials and even other Africans, such as migrants from DRC who speak primarily French.

Those who reach the United States often send advice back home, helping make the journey easier for others, said Florence Kim, spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration in West and Central Africa.

Like their Central American migrant counterparts, some Africans are also showing up with families hoping for easier entries than as individuals, said Mittelstadt of the Migration Policy Institute.

U.S. data shows a huge spike in the number of families from countries other than Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras at the U.S. southern border. Between last October and May 16,000 members of families were registered, up from 1,000 for the whole of 2018, according to an analysis by the MPI.

REGIONAL APPROACH

The grueling Latin America trek forces migrants to spend at least a week trudging across swampland and hiking through mountainous rainforests in the lawless Darien Gap that is the only link between Panama and Colombia.

Still, the route has a key advantage: Countries in the region typically do not deport migrants from other continents due in part to the steep costs and lack of repatriation agreements with their home countries.

That relaxed attitude could change, however.

Under a deal struck with United States last month, Mexico may start a process later this month to become a safe third country, making asylum seekers apply for refuge in Mexico and not the United States.

To lessen the load on Mexico, Mexico and the United States plan to put pressure on Central American nations to do more to prevent asylum seekers, including African migrants, from moving north.

For the moment, however, more Africans can be expected to attempt the journey, said IOM’s Kim.

“They want to do something with their life. They feel they lack a future in their country,” she said.

(The story adds dropped word “they” in final paragraph.)

(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Additional reporting by Paul Vieira; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)

Mexican president thanks Trump for taking trade tariffs off table

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico June 10, 2019. REUTERS/Gustavo Graf/File Photo

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Tuesday thanked U.S. President Donald Trump for saying trade tariffs were currently off the table in recognition of the Mexican government’s efforts to reduce the flow of U.S.-bound migrants.

Under U.S. pressure to radically shake up its immigration enforcement efforts after apprehensions at the U.S. border hit a more than 10-year high, Mexico last month deployed thousands of militarized police across the country. Migration flows from Central America have since dropped sharply.

“I am grateful that even President Trump is making it known that Mexico is fulfilling its commitment and that there are no threats of tariffs,” Lopez Obrador said.

Under the agreement reached between the two countries on June 7, the United States gave Mexico until late July to show results on lowering migration, or face renewed pressure over tariffs and further enforcement measures.

Trump had threatened to impose escalating, blanket tariffs on Mexican goods.

Last week, acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said Mexico’s increased enforcement efforts, not seasonal factors, were behind an anticipated drop of as much as 25% in apprehensions from May’s record levels.

On Monday, when asked if tariffs were entirely off the table, Trump replied, “Well they are now, because I think the president is doing a great job.”

(Reporting by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Jonathan Oatis)

Mexico says it will finish National Guard roll-out to stem migration this week

FILE PHOTO - Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard speaks during a session with senators and lawmakers at the Senate building in Mexico City, Mexico June 14, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico will complete deployment of National Guard forces on its southern border with Guatemala this week as part of a new immigration control plan agreed with Washington, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard’said on Monday.

“The deployment of the National Guard ordered, with support from the Ministry of Defense and the Navy, will be completed this week,” Ebrard said at a news conference.

Mexico is stepping up efforts to cut the flow of mostly Central American migrants toward the U.S. border under pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump, who vowed to hit Mexican goods with tariffs if it did not increase immigration control efforts.

Mexico made a deal on June 7 with the United States to avert the tariffs, setting the clock ticking on a 45-day period for the Mexican government to make palpable progress in reducing the numbers of people trying to cross the U.S. border illegally.

Mexico has pledged to send 6,000 National Guard members along its border with Guatemala under the deal.

That deployment has been patchy so far. A Reuters reporter near the border this weekend saw a handful of officials wearing National Guard insignia and spoke to other security personnel who said they were part of the guard.

There has been a jump in apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border this year, angering Trump, who has made reducing illegal immigration one of his signature policy pledges as he heads into his campaign to win a second four-year term in November 2020.

Most of those caught attempting to enter the United States are people fleeing poverty and violence in the troubled Central American nations of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

(Reporting by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Dave Graham and Bill Trott)

U.S.-Mexico migration talks continue as tariff deadline looms

Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard exits the U.S. State Department to speak to reporters after a meeting between U.S. and Mexican officials on immigration and trade in Washington, U.S., June 6, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

By Susan Heavey and Anthony Esposito

WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – U.S. and Mexican negotiators resumed migration talks on Friday as the two sides edged closer to a trade war that could hobble both countries’ economies and rattle investors already nervous about Washington’s escalating battle with China.

U.S. President Donald Trump has warned that tariffs of 5% will be imposed on all Mexican exports to the United States on Monday if Mexico does not step up efforts to stem an increase in mostly Central American migrants heading for the U.S. border.

“As negotiations continued yesterday, we were more encouraged that they came forward with some of the things we put on the table Wednesday to say they were open to that,” Marc Short, chief of staff to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, told reporters outside the White House.

Short added that the Trump administration planned to move forward with a legal notification of its planned 5% tariff on Mexican goods. “You should anticipate that happening today,” he said.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said while the meetings had gone well, “we’re still on track for tariffs on Monday.”

Trump, who has railed against what he describes as a surge of migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border, will have the final say over any deal, Pence said on Thursday. Pence also said progress had been made in the talks but gave no specifics.

Trump is returning to Washington on Friday after a week-long trip to Europe.

The U.S. president has threatened to continue raising the tariffs on Mexico after the initial levies go into effect on June. 10 if a migration deal fails to materialize.

Mexico, whose economy is heavily dependent on trade with the United States, is scrambling to avoid such a scenario.

“It’s a good sign that talks have not broken down,” Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told reporters in Mexico City. “There is dialogue and an agreement can be reached. I’m optimistic we can achieve that.”

Lopez Obrador, however, said it was a mistake for the United States to link migration with trade.

Mexico has prepared a list of possible retaliatory tariffs targeting U.S. products from agricultural and industrial states regarded as Trump’s electoral base, a tactic China has also used with an eye toward the president’s 2020 re-election bid.

That would put the United States in a serious trade dispute with its southern neighbor and China – two of its three top trading partners.

The United States slapped up to 25% tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports last month, prompting Beijing to levy its own tariffs on a revised target list of $60 billion in American goods.

Trump said on Thursday he would decide later this month whether to carry out his threat to hit Beijing with tariffs on at least $300 billion in Chinese goods.

U.S. officials officially granted Chinese exporters two more weeks to get their products into the United States before increasing tariffs on those items, according to a U.S. government notice posted online on Friday.

OPPOSITION

U.S. business groups are generally opposed to the escalation of the trade tensions, warning that the tariffs will raise costs for companies and lead to higher prices for American consumers. Trump’s fellow Republicans also are not keen on the tariffs.

Economists warn that the trade wars could damage key supply lines and lead to a further slowdown of the global economy. Even the United States, one of the more solid performers on the economic stage, would suffer.

The U.S. Labor Department reported on Friday that job growth slowed sharply in May and wages rose less than expected, raising fears that a loss of momentum in economic activity could be spreading to the labor market.

Global equities rose on Friday on the prospect that central banks, including the U.S. Federal Reserve, would loosen monetary policy to offset trade frictions and the threat of global recession.

Analysts warn that tariffs could spark a recession in Mexico. Credit ratings agency Fitch downgraded Mexico’s sovereign debt rating on Wednesday, citing trade tensions among other risks, while Moody’s lowered its outlook to negative.

Ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Trump is eager to show progress on his 2016 campaign pledges to take a hard line on immigration. Apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border hit a decade high in May.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu in Washington, Anthony Esposito in Mexico City and Steve Holland in Shannon, Ireland; Writing by Paul Simao; Editing by Susan Thomas)

Trump again threatens Mexico border closure, seeks Congress action

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the National Republican Congressional Committee Annual Spring Dinner in Washington, U.S., April 2, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump again threatened on Wednesday to close the U.S. border with Mexico, this time calling on Congress to take steps immediately to deal with immigration and security loopholes that he says are creating a national emergency.

“Congress must get together and immediately eliminate the loopholes at the Border!” Trump wrote in a Twitter post. “If no action, Border, or large sections of Border, will close. This is a National Emergency!”

Trump has repeatedly threatened to close the border to stem what he calls a tide of illegal immigration. On Friday, he said he would close the border this week unless Mexico took steps to stop illegal migration.

The threat drew an outcry from business leaders and others, who said the move could disrupt legal crossings and billions of dollars in trade. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest U.S. business lobbying group, said it contacted the White House to discuss the negative impact of a border closure.

Trump took a step back on Tuesday, saying action by Mexico in recent days had eased pressure on U.S. ports of entry. But he revived the closure warning on Wednesday in a bid to pressure Congress to act.

White House adviser Mercedes Schlapp said on Wednesday that progress is being made with Mexico on immigration issues but she declined to comment on whether the border would be closed this week.

“Our resources are being stretched thin. The system is overwhelmed,” she told reporters at the White House. “We are seeing our border patrol commissioner make it very clear that we are at a breaking point.”

Trump has made fighting illegal immigration from Mexico a key part of his agenda but shutting down one of the world’s most used borders might be a step too far even for many of his fellow Republicans.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that closing the border could have devastating economic consequences, and joined his Democratic colleagues in warning Trump against such a move.

The White House is looking closely at ways to lessen the economic impact of a border shutdown, Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Wednesday.

(Reporting by David Alexander, Jeff Mason and Alexandra Alper; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by David Gregorio and Alistair Bell)

White House softens tone after threat to close border with Mexico

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent cast his shadow on a plaque marking the boundaries of Mexico and United States, at Paso del Norte international border crossing bridge, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

By Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House took a step back from its threat to close the southern U.S. border on Tuesday, saying Mexico has begun to take actions to address the immigration problem on its end.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the Trump administration sees Mexico “stepping up and taking a greater sense of responsibility” for dealing with the immigration flows that U.S. officials say are overwhelming ports of entry along the border.

“They have started to do a significant amount more. We’ve seen them take a larger number of individuals” and hold those who have asylum claims in Mexico while they are being processed in the United States, Sanders told reporters at the White House.

“We’ve also seen them stop more people from coming across the border so that they aren’t even entering into the United States. So those two things are certainly helpful and we’d like to see them continue,” Sanders said.

Trump hinted at the shift earlier in a Twitter post earlier on Tuesday. “After many years (decades), Mexico is apprehending large numbers of people at their Southern Border, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador,” he said.

Trump threatened on Friday to close the border with this week unless Mexico took steps to stop immigrants from reaching the United States illegally. Closing the border with Mexico could disrupt millions of legal border crossings and billions of dollars in trade.

Sanders said the administration was “looking at all options when it comes to closing the different ports of entry, what that looks like and what the impacts would be.”

She told Fox News the administration wanted Mexico to continue working to address the issue so “we aren’t forced to take drastic action like closing the ports of entry at our border.”

She said the administration’s Council of Economic Advisers is doing studies on the impact of closing different ports of entries to give Trump some options.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Steve Holland; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Alistair Bell)

Mexican president says illegal immigration to U.S. ‘is not up to us’

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador looks on during a meeting with industry bosses and members of his cabinet to discuss the new administration's policy on the minimum wage at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico December 17, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Phot

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Thursday he was committed to helping curb illegal immigration after renewed Twitter criticism by U.S. counterpart Donald Trump, but he suggested it was an issue chiefly for the United States and Central America to address.

Illegal immigration across the U.S. border has caused persistent bilateral tensions ever since Trump launched his bid for the presidency almost four years ago, saying that Mexico was sending rapists and drug runners into the United States.

With initial campaigning for the 2020 U.S. presidential election already underway, Trump sent out a tweet early Thursday that again attacked Mexico over migration.

“Mexico is doing NOTHING to help stop the flow of illegal immigrants to our Country,” Trump wrote. “They are all talk and no action. Likewise, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have taken our money for years, and do Nothing.”

Trump again threatened to close the U.S. southern border.

At his regular morning news conference, Lopez Obrador was asked about Trump’s tweet, and said he was focused on addressing the root causes of migration. He repeated that he wanted a cordial relationship with Trump.

“We respect president Trump’s position, and we are going to help. That is, this is a problem of the United States, or it’s a problem of the Central American countries. It’s not up to us Mexicans, no,” Lopez Obrador told reporters.

“I just emphasize that migration flows of Mexicans to the United States are very low, a lot lower,” he said. “The Mexican is no longer seeking work in the United States. The majority are inhabitants of our fellow Central American countries.”

Trump’s latest broadside came one day after the United States, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador agreed to conduct joint police operations in Central America to improve border security and tackle illegal immigration.

The three countries account for the bulk of migrants apprehended trying to cross illegally into the United States.

Trump’s remarks also followed calls on social media for a new caravan of migrants to form in Honduras.

Over the weekend, a group of around 1,200 migrants, most of them from Central America, began moving toward the U.S. border from southern Mexico.

(Reporting by Miguel Angel Gutierrez, Dave Graham and Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

Trump heads to U.S. border with Mexico to press case for wall

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs for a visit to the U.S. southern border area in Texas from the White House in Washington, U.S., January 10, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump heads to Texas on Thursday to press his case that the country is facing a crisis that can only be solved by spending billions of dollars to construct a wall along the border with Mexico.

His trip to the border town of McAllen, Texas, comes on the 20th day of a partial government shutdown that has left hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work or working without pay, while Trump and fellow Republicans fight with Democrats over his demand for $5.7 billion this year to construct the barrier.

Trump’s plan to build a wall at the southern border was a central promise of his 2016 presidential campaign. He said last month he would be “proud” to shut the government down over the issue but has since blamed Democrats.

He also has been considering whether to declare a national emergency and use it to circumvent Congress by building the wall with money allocated for the Department of Defense. Democrats who control the House of Representatives refuse to approve the wall funding.

Critics say such a move by Trump would be illegal and plan to immediately challenge it in court. Even some Republicans who want to build a wall have said they do not want money to be taken from the military to pay for it.

Trump will travel to Texas with the state’s two U.S. senators, Republicans John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. After Trump’s midday visit, Cornyn will host a roundtable discussion with area mayors, judges, law enforcement personnel and others involved with the border issue.

On Dec. 22, about 25 percent of the government – excluding mainly the Department of Defense and health-related programs – shut down because of Congress’ inability to complete work by a September deadline on funding all government agencies.

Backed by most Republicans in Congress, as well as his most ardent supporters, Trump has said he will not sign any bill to reopen the government that does not provide the funds he wants for the wall.

“There is GREAT unity with the Republicans in the House and Senate, despite the Fake News Media working in overdrive to make the story look otherwise,” Trump tweeted on Thursday ahead of his departure. “The Opposition Party & the Dems know we must have Strong Border Security, but don’t want to give ‘Trump’ another one of many wins!”

ACRIMONIOUS MEETING

The impasse has continued while Trump’s meetings with Democratic congressional leaders have ended in acrimony. On Wednesday, he stormed out of a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, calling it “a total waste of time.”

Trump says undocumented immigrants and illegal drugs are streaming across the border from Mexico, despite statistics that show illegal immigration there is at a 20-year low and that many drug shipments likely are smuggled through legal ports of entry.

Democrats accuse Trump of using fear tactics and spreading misinformation about the border situation in order to fulfill a 2016 campaign promise as he looks toward his race for re-election in 2020.

The president has been working to make his case to the public, and bolster any congressional Republicans who might be wavering.

Pressure on them could intensify on Friday when about 800,000 federal employees – including border patrol agents and airport security screeners – miss their first paychecks.

On Tuesday, Trump said in his first prime-time television address from the Oval Office that there was a growing security and humanitarian crisis at the border.

On Wednesday, he visited Republican lawmakers at the U.S. Capitol, emerging from a meeting to say his party was “very unified.”

Less than two hours later, eight Republicans in the House voted with majority Democrats on a bill that would reopen the Treasury Department and some other programs and did not include any funding for the wall.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made clear, however, that he will not allow that chamber to vote on any measure that does not include wall funding.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Peter Cooney and Bill Trott)

U.S. expands medical checks after Guatemala boy dies

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials in San Diego County, U.S., are seen through a hole on the metallic border wall between United States and Mexico, photographed through the border wall in Tijuana, Mexico, Dec. 17, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem/File Photo

By Sofia Menchu and Yeganeh Torbati

NENTON, Guatemala/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Migrant children will receive more thorough medical checks after an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy died in U.S. custody this week, the U.S. government said on Wednesday, and his mother expressed grief and despair over his death.

Felipe Gomez Alonzo, who died on Monday, and his father, Agustin, 47, came from the western municipality of Nenton in Huehuetenango province, Guatemalan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marta Larra said. The pair trekked to the Mexico-U.S. border, joining thousands of others who have left their remote area.

Gomez, belonged to a family of indigenous Maya, was the second child to die this month in U.S. custody after crossing from Mexico, following the Dec. 8 death of Jakelin Caal, a 7-year-old girl also from Guatemala.

“I’m sad and in despair over the death of my son,” the boy’s 32-year-old mother, Catarina Alonzo, told Reuters by phone from her home in the tiny village of Yalambojoch, speaking through a translator because of her limited Spanish.

The latest fatality prompted sharp criticism from some Democrats, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced policy changes on Wednesday aimed at preventing future deaths of children in custody.

All children in Border Patrol custody have been given a “thorough medical screening,” and moving forward all children will receive “a more thorough hands on assessment” as soon as possible after being apprehended, whether or not the adult with them asks for one, Nielsen said in a statement.

Gomez’s parents, who speak a Maya language called Chuj and little Spanish, have requested an autopsy be done as quickly as possible so their son’s body can be repatriated to Guatemala, Larra said. The results are expected in about a week, she added.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency has not released an official cause of death.

Most families in Nenton, a mountainous area near the Mexican border, are of indigenous origin and subsist on corn and beans, as well as money sent back from relatives working in the United States and Mexico, according to a local government report.

Huehuetenango sends the highest number of migrants abroad from Guatemala every year, Larra at the foreign ministry said.

Nielsen said the death of migrant children in U.S. custody is rare, noting that in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, six migrants died under the CBP’s auspices, none of whom were children. It had been more than a decade since a child died in CBP custody, she added.

“It is now clear that migrants, particularly children, are increasingly facing medical challenges and harboring illness caused by their long and dangerous journey,” Nielsen said, noting she would travel to the border later this week to observe the medical screenings and conditions at Border Patrol stations.

She placed some blame for the risks faced by migrant children on their families. “Smugglers, traffickers, and their own parents put these minors at risk by embarking on the dangerous and arduous journey north,” Nielsen said.

INVESTIGATION DEMANDED

Gomez and his father were detained on Dec. 18 in El Paso, Texas, for illegally entering the country, the agency said.

They were given hot food, snacks, juice and water, and two days later, were transferred to the El Paso Border Patrol Station, CBP said. On Dec. 23, they were moved to the Alamogordo Border Patrol Station in New Mexico.

On the morning of Dec. 24, an agent noticed Gomez “was coughing and appeared to have glossy eyes,” CBP said, and the father and son were transferred to a nearby hospital.

The boy was found to have a fever and cold and was released with a prescription for an antibiotic and Ibuprofen. That evening, Gomez started vomiting, and his father declined medical help because his son had been feeling better, CBP said.

A few hours later, Gomez again began feeling nauseous and was taken back to the hospital, where he died just before midnight. CBP previously said he had died early on Tuesday.

U.S. House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called on Wednesday for the DHS internal watchdog, the Inspector General’s office, to investigate Gomez’s death.

Other Democrats expressed outrage.

U.S. Representative Raul Ruiz of California said on a conference call that CBP facilities he had visited last week near El Paso were “dehumanizing” and not equipped to handle emergencies in remote areas of the Mexico-U.S. border.

“This is under the care and the responsibility and the custody of the United States government, and they do not meet the most minimal basic standards of humanitarian health,” he said.

(Reporting by Sofia Menchu in Nenton, Guatemala, and Yeganeh Torbati in Washington Additional reporting by Daina Beth Solomon in Mexico City and David Morgan in Washington, Editing by Dave Graham, Cynthia Osterman and Leslie Adler)

Pompeo says new Mexican government ‘great’ on immigration: Fox

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the press before boarding his plane at Mexico City International Airport in Mexico City, Mexico, October 19, 2018. Brendan Smialowski/Pool/via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday praised the new government of Mexico on immigration issues and said the two sides have discussed the importance of stemming the flow of undocumented migrants before they get to the U.S. border.

“The incoming administration’s been great,” Pompeo said in an interview with Fox News, citing conversations about how to control traffic from Guatemala and Honduras along Mexico’s southern border. “We have to control that border that is ours and they have to control that border that is theirs.”

Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office on Dec. 1. The next day, Pompeo met with Mexico’s incoming foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, to discuss border issues.

“We’re happy to support them. We’re happy to try and do the things we can do to help them,” Pompeo said in the Fox interview.

U.S. President Donald Trump has called the migrants effort to seek asylum in the United States an “invasion” and has deployed the military to the border to reinforce security measures.

He has reiterated his campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, even after Mexico repeatedly rejected his demand that it pay for the billion-dollar project.

Funding for the border wall has been a sticking point in spending bills before the U.S. Congress, and Trump clashed with leading Democrats over the issue during an Oval Office meeting on Tuesday.

Pompeo said he supports the effort to build a wall.

“We have to have the capacity to control entry to our country everywhere,” he said. “And a wall is a vital component of that.”

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Steve Orlofsky)