- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2006

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — Mexico said yesterday that it would file lawsuits in U.S. courts if National Guard troops on the border become directly involved in detaining migrants.

Mexican border officials said they worried that sending troops to heavily trafficked regions would push migrants into more perilous areas of the U.S.-Mexico border to avoid detection.

President Bush announced Monday that he would send 6,000 National Guard troops to the 2,000-mile border, but they would provide intelligence and surveillance support to U.S. Border Patrol agents, not catch and detain illegal aliens.

“If there is a real wave of rights abuses, if we see the National Guard starting to directly participate in detaining people … we would immediately start filing lawsuits through our consulates,” Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez told a Mexico City radio station. He did not offer further details.

Mexican officials worry that the crackdown will lead to more deaths. Since Washington toughened security in Texas and California in 1994, migrants have flooded Arizona’s hard-to-patrol desert, and deaths have spiked. Migrant groups estimate that 500 people died trying to cross the border last year. The Border Patrol reported 473 deaths in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.

In Ciudad Juarez, Julieta Nunez Gonzalez, local representative of the Mexican government’s National Immigration Institute, said yesterday that she would ask the government to send its migrant protection force, known as Grupo Beta, to more remote sections of the border.

Sending the National Guard “will not stop the flow of migrants; to the contrary, it will probably go up,” as people try to get into the U.S. in the hope that they could benefit from any amnesty program, Mrs. Nunez said.

Juan Canche, 36, traveled more than 1,200 miles to the border from the southern town of Izamal and said nothing would stop him from trying to cross.

“Even with a lot of guards and soldiers in place, we have to jump that puddle,” said Mr. Canche, referring to the drought-stricken Rio Grande dividing Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, Texas. “My family is hungry, and there is no work in my land. I have to risk it.”

Some Mexican newspapers criticized President Vicente Fox for not taking a stronger stand against the measure, even though Mr. Fox called Mr. Bush to express his concerns.

A political cartoon in the Mexico City newspaper Reforma depicted Mr. Bush as a gorilla carrying a club with a flattened Mr. Fox stuck to it.

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