White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Monday that the U.S. government has secured deals with the governments of Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras to increase security on the countries’ respective southern borders.
The agreement to increase troop levels came out of "ongoing" discussions across multiple levels of government, Psaki said during Monday’s press briefing.
“There have been a series of bilateral discussions between our leadership and the regional governments of Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala,” she said. “Through those discussions there was a commitment … to increase border security.
The agreements, which Psaki said were reached over the last several weeks, aim “to make it more difficult to make the journey” for migrants hoping to reach the United States, and to make crossing borders more difficult.
Mexico agreed to keep 10,000 troops along its southern border, which officials believe will result in twice as many migrant interdictions per day. Guatemala agreed to send an additional 1,500 police and military officers to its southern border, and will also establish 12 checkpoints along identified migratory routes across the country. Honduras will send 7,000 police and military to “disperse a large contingent of migrants,” Psaki said.
The news of the border agreements between the four countries was first revealed by Tyler Moran, special assistant to the President for immigration for the Domestic Policy Council, on MSNBC Monday morning.
"We've secured agreements for them to put more troops on their own border. Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala have all agreed to do this,” Moran told “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough in part. “That not only is going to prevent the traffickers, and the smugglers, and cartels that take advantage of the kids on their way here, but also to protect those children.”
Moran also stressed that the federal government is not only stepping up border security, but will also address the root causes of migration that force people out of their home countries.
"We're addressing the reasons that people are coming from the region,” she said. “This is really important. If you just focus on our border, you're not addressing why people are actually coming to our border. The President has a blueprint and he's working with the vice president on this.”
The news of the agreements comes amid a surge in migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In March, over 172,000 people came to the United States’ southern border, according to data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. That number is the highest recorded in over two decades, and a near-70% increase from the previous month.
Still, the administration has turned away the vast majority of people who have attempted to cross the border, citing health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Biden administration has taken several other steps to address the migrant surge, including naming Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the White House effort to tackle the migration challenge at the U.S. southern border and work with Central American nations to address root causes of the problem.
And Biden on Monday nominated two critics of Trump-era immigration policies for key roles at the Department of Homeland Security.
Biden named Tucson, Arizona Police Chief Chris Magnus to be commissioner of Customs and Border Protection. Immigration policy expert Ur Mendoza Jaddou has been nominated to be director of Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Magnus publicly challenged the Trump administration's efforts to punish cities that refused to cooperate with tougher immigration enforcement policies, arguing that it damaged relations between law enforcement and migrant communities.
Jaddou most recently was director of DHS Watch, which was broadly critical of the Trump administration's efforts to curtail both legal and illegal immigration.
CBP’s responsibilities including patrolling the border while USCIS runs legal immigration services. Both positions require Senate confirmation and were run by acting leaders under former President Donald Trump, repeatedly drawing criticism from Congress.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.