CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico (AP) –
The Mexican shores of the Suchiat River flowed Sunday with a large presence of immigration agents to operate Mexico’s new border with Guatemala on its common border, except for a substantial voyage.
Dozens of immigration agents stood on the riverbank to document those who landed on huge waterproof ferries carrying most of their cross-border traffic, and many were turned away.
But those who turned around were not migrants. They were the few Guatemalan traders from Tecun Uman on the other side of the river, who mostly go to Mexico to resell or buy household items in Guatemala when the exchange rate favors it.
“They did not let us in because they thought we were migrants, when in fact we were just shopping,” said Amalya Vazquez, a Guatemalan citizen with seven other relatives tied to her newborn on her back. Vazquez said his family travels 100 kilometers a month from Quetzaltenango to buy plastic items, sweets, which he resells at home.
After the negotiations, the immigration agents allowed his sister to move to another relative, but they had to leave their IDs while shopping. Other agents approached a man nearby and said he was just coming to buy his medicine.
The Mexican government has previously cut off river traffic, which normally flows here, outraged by traders on both sides. In recent years, when migrant caravans arrived in Tekun Uma, Mexican troops lined up on the Mexican side of Sukhiyat, mostly stopping ferries.
The last time was in January 2020, when hundreds of soldiers blocked large groups of migrants crossing.
There is not a large influx of migrants this time around, but Mexico is again under pressure to slow the flow of migrants north as the US government struggles with rising numbers, especially of families accompanied by minors.
Many of them are believed to be traveling with smugglers who can simply pick up hundreds of unattended checkpoints within the long jungle of Guatemala և Belize, Mexico.
The government said Sunday that the measures, which came into force a year after the epidemic, were aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. But most saw it as a cover for trying to re-try illegal migration, and no one talked about health issues. The United States և Mexico has for a year such a non-essential travel restriction on its common border, but Mexico is one of the few countries that no longer restricts health restrictions for people entering the country by land or air.
Last week, the Mexican government also announced new efforts to crack down on underage families. They said they would increase patrols in areas, checkpoints, drones, and use night-vision to monitor checkpoints.
On Saturday, the Mexican Immigration Agency announced that authorities had arrested 95 Central American և Cuban migrants who had flown to the northern city of Monterey. Among them were eight unaccompanied minors. Flights have started in the cities of Vilahermosa and Cancun in southeastern Mexico. Smugglers sometimes hire migrants who can pay for such flights to avoid highways in Mexico.
Hundreds of National Guard troops and immigration agents marched through the southern province of Chiapas on Friday. Few soldiers were seen on the riverbank on Sunday.
“It’s all a show,” said a woman at the candy market who asked to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation. “They do not let buyers pass, but the smugglers are very active.”
The Mexican National Immigration Institute says smugglers are telling Central American migrants to bring in children to improve access to Mexico և the United States.
The flow has not yet reached the initial level of 2019, but the US government is concerned about the rapid growth of illegal inflows since last fall.
“We do not take much to resell,” said Maria Vazquez, Amalia’s sister, as she negotiated the price of some cookies while her family waited by the river. “Migrants traveling in groups are really hurting us ակը the epidemic. “They never asked us for documents.”