It’s Business as Usual at Mexico’s Southern Border Despite Trump Deal

Central American migrants get off a raft after crossing the Suchiate river from Tecun Uman, in Guatemala, to Ciudad Hidalgo, as seen from Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, June 8, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas
REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

On Saturday, at the busiest crossing point along Mexico’s porous southern border with Guatemala, evidence of Mexico’s promised crackdown on waves of new arrivals trying to reach the United States was nowhere to be seen.

Within sight of a bridge connecting Mexico to Guatemala, a fleet of about 16 rafts carried migrants hoping to escape poverty and gang-related violence in Central America.

A few police appeared briefly at dawn on the Mexican shore, people said, but they vanished as fast. Nothing else outwardly changed despite a deal struck in Washington on Friday in which Mexico vowed to stem the northern flow of migrants with a crackdown on illegal crossings across the Guatemala border.

The travelers, often exploited by cross-border guides called “coyotes” and security forces out to make a buck, said the business of illegal immigration was unaltered by the deal in Washington.

Over the past few months, Mexico has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of immigrants. In May, authorities detained nearly 23,000 migrants, triple the number in January and about twice the monthly average in the first five months of last year.

However, most of that activity has taken place further from the border between Chiapas state and Guatemala. On Friday, negotiators agreed to send up to 6,000 members of the National Guard security force into Chiapas after Trump’s calls for Mexico to secure the frontier.

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said that deployment would start on Monday. For now, the decades’ old business of ferrying people across the river to dodge usual passport controls has not been interrupted.

Another common practice that undermines Mexico’s efforts is corruption among low-paid police forces.

A military police officer observes traffic at an immigration checkpoint on a road in Tapachula, Mexico, June 8, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas
A military police officer observes traffic at an immigration checkpoint on a road in Tapachula, Mexico, June 8, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

Seven Salvadorians and Hondurans who said they crossed the river by raft on Friday at dawn told Reuters that Chiapas state police officers had pulled them out of small public buses on their way to the Mexican border town of Tapachula where they were heading to seek papers.

“They took 100 Mexican pesos ($5) from me, 200 from him, about 1,000 altogether between us – and that other family,” said Jaime Mejia, 44, a Salvadoran pastor, squatting on a Tapachula sidewalk, nodding down the block at clutches of bedraggled men, women and children perched among bags and bundles.

The toll paid to the police, he said, left the group without money to pay for lodging. Chiapas security officials and Mexico’s interior ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mejia said he fled the town of La Libertad, El Salvador, after members of the country’s dominant gang, MS-13, told him to surrender his church to them to stash their weapons and drugs.

Asked about the immigration talks between the Trump and Lopez Obrador governments that could decide their fate, Mejia and more than 20 other migrants who spoke with Reuters on Friday and Saturday shrugged, shook their heads and looked blankly.

Friday’s deal averted a U.S.-Mexico tariff war, with Mexico also agreeing to expand asylum programs. President Donald Trump had threatened to impose 5% import tariffs on all Mexican goods starting on Monday if Mexico did not commit to do more to tighten its borders.

Tapachula, a first stop for many migrants on their journey north, was overflowing with migrants, from Central America, Cuba and elsewhere.

After the shakedown by police, Mejia and his group headed to the city’s office of the Mexican refugee agency to apply for asylum in Mexico. Each one was given a number to reappear days later for an interview, Mejia said.

But they found that the migration shelters -only three in town – were overflowing. With no money left, they had to bed down in the street.

Olga Sanchez, head of the Jesus El Buen Pastor migrant shelter, said she had been caring for about 700 people since about November. Among those at the shelter were about 200 children.

“In the past, having 100 was a huge amount,” said Sanchez. “We’re saturated.”

(Editing by Hugh Bronstein & Kim Coghill)

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Mary Ridosh-Spalding
Member

Start shooting rubber bullets at them, sink the rafts!! WHATEVER the hell it takes!!!

John Furlong
Member

It will be business as usual until America gets serious, OUR military should be at the boarder turning the invaders back and the damned fools who make the laws must fix them, this bullshit of stepping onto our soil and never leaving is like a child’s game. HA, HA I’AM ON BASE, YOU CAN’T TAG ME!

Friend
Member

If this continues these people are going to bankrupt our once beautiful country, never mind counting on Mexico to prevent this influx of ILLEGALS we have to do something about it ourselves, we cannot fully take care of our own people look at all the Americans living on the streets in California, yet we will find the funds to house these crimminals, yes I said CRIMMINALS they are breaking into our country un-wanted, un-documented, bring all kinds of diseases, if it were any other country in the world in a lot of cases they would have been shot!!!!!!! Congress needs… Read more »

Darline Harris
Guest
Darline Harris

Mex is corrupt to the core!!!! Cheapgovt doesn’t take care of their own people, just their selfish selves. Not to b trusted !!!!

Shelvy Miller
Guest
Shelvy Miller

Mexico will not do it’s promised duty on it’s southern border, the only thing that will work is $$$ angle and I mean tariffs on $$$ sent back to Mexico by illegal people. Also we should use tariffs on all goods that Mecico sends to USA

Maureen Marks
Guest
Maureen Marks

Built a Tall Wall that is unable to be climbed!Do not feed or care for those that arrive. I cannot move to Ireland so the Central Americans should not be allowed in to the US. Democrats are dumber than DUMB!

Guest
Guest
Guest

So now…Trump has control of the immigration problem through the Mexican government and is getting 6 Billions from the Pentagon budget through the New York fed. judge approval, while the IG report from Horowitz is about to come out and AG Barr has appointed Atty. Durham (a junk yard/bulldog all in one) to investigate Muller and the origin of the Russian Collusion a la Clintonese style! Nervous Nancy has to be tap dancing non-stop at this point! I doubt there is any medicine on the market yet to counter react her condition!

Sherri
Member

This headline is ridiculous! Trump & Mexico make a deal and a few hours later bias news says nothing has changed. YHGTBKM!! I know Trump has a magic wand but get real folks! How in the world can anyone take Reuters seriously anymore?

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