It’s business as usual at Mexico’s southern border despite Trump deal

Sunday, June 9, 2019
By Paul Martin

Delphine Schrank
Reuters.com
JUNE 8, 2019

TAPACHULA, Mexico (Reuters) – 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.

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.

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