By Rocio Gallegos/La Verdad

CIUDAD JUAREZ – More than 200 Mexican federal agents were deployed by the National Institute of Migration to the Ciudad Juárez-El Paso border with instructions to prevent migrants from crossing the Rio Grande to enter the United States.

The operation, called “Juárez-El Paso Containment,” was activated Friday afternoon on the banks of the Río Grande near the Plaza de la Mexicanidad, where the national commissioner of the INM, Francisco Garduño Yáñez, arrived to give the orders.

The activation of this operation comes just days before the arrival of President Biden to El Paso, where he will visit on Sunday to talk about immigration. The operation also coincides with the implementation of the new border control actions by the United States government, aimed at reducing the number of people who cross illegally from Mexico – which increases the expulsion of migrants to Mexico.

However, Garduño Yañez said that’s only “a coincidence.”

Francisco Garduño Yáñez, commissioner of Mexico’s National Institute of Migration, talks to federal agents about their duties at the border on Friday. (Rocio Gallegos/La Verdad Juarez)

He said that the deployment of INM federal agents seeks to provide support and assistance to migrants whose safety and health is at risk due to the winter’s low temperatures. However, the agents’ instructions were to set up along “the dividing line with the United States, specifically on the banks of the Rio Grande, in routes that mirror those of Border Patrol authorities.”

The purpose, they were told, is to put in place controls aimed at preventing migrants “from putting their safety at risk by crossing the Rio Grande with the intention of entering the United States without documents.”

Garduño Yánez said he will meet with Border Patrol authorities in the El Paso sector “to coordinate actions to prevent migrants from remaining exposed to risks.”

In turn, Salvador González Guerrero, who’s in charge of the INM office in Chihuahua, told the agents that they will be placed along the border from San Jerónimo to Zaragoza.

The agents are in addition to the elements of the National Guard that have been patrolling the banks of the Rio Grande since June 2019 as a migration containment strategy.

Federal agents with Mexico’s National Institute of Migration prepare to patrol along the Rio Grande in Juarez on Friday. (Rocio Gallegos/La Verdad Juarez)

Garduño explained that the INM agents will be “inviting” the migrants to withdraw from the border crossing and sending them to the Leona Vicario integration center. This shelter, opened in the city by the federal government in August 2019, has a capacity to house 600 migrants.

“First we will be inviting them to come to the integration center and if not, we will make an effort to be able to pick them up and take them,”  he said.

Garduño said that Juárez has not yet received any migrants under the new U.S. Department of Homeland Security immigration program announced Thursday, although the INM staff in Juárez indicated that 100 migrants expelled back to Mexico were received Friday. Although those migrants were all Venezuelans, migrants from Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti who crossed the border unlawfully and were expelled were expected to be received Saturday.

Puente News Collaborative

This story was produced as part of the Puente News Collaborative, a binational partnership of news organizations in Ciudad Juárez and El Paso.