MEXICO CITY — Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Wednesday criticized a directive from his own immigration agency that temporarily barred access to migrant detention centres by non-profit groups that monitor conditions and assist migrants.
At least one activist group was allowed into a detention centre Wednesday, and the National Immigration Institute said a total of 10 groups would be allowed in by the end of the week.
But the same institute had said Tuesday that access for civic, activist and religious groups to the detention centres would be temporarily suspended. It said that “rescheduling the visits will depend on the work load of each migrant centre, with the goal of providing services to the migrants to continue without interruption.”
The Interior Ministry, which oversees the institute, however, said later Tuesday via Twitter that the suspension was “not authorized by superiors” and “disavowed” the statement.
Lopez Obrador also objected, saying it is “prohibited to prohibit everything, almost everything.”
Claudia Leon, of the Jesuit Service for Refugees, said she was allowed on Wednesday into the detention centre in the southern city of Tapachula, near the border with Guatemala.
Leon said the conflicting signals from the government sowed doubt, and suggested there were some internal divisions over the crackdown on migrants that was implemented under threats from the United States to slap tariffs on Mexican goods.
“We do not know what is happening. It appears that one sector is obeying the orders that arise from the United States, but another sector is arguing against these backward policies,” said Leon.
Lopez Obrador defended his administration’s tougher immigration enforcement at the southern border, but insisted there must be transparency.
“How can you imagine that we are going to leave religious groups, members of civil society, social organizations without the ability to enter?” Lopez Obrador said.
Such groups have been an important independent voice about conditions inside the detention centres, which are not open to the public and the press.
Last week, Mexico national guardsmen and immigration agents broke up the latest migrant caravan hours after its members crossed the southern border from Guatemala. Hundreds were detained.