Guatemalan migrants vow to keep trying to reach US border after Mexico ramps up pressure

Monday, June 17, 2019
By Paul Martin

By William La Jeunesse
Fox News

TECUN UMAN, Guatemala — President Trump’s effort to reduce illegal immigration is showing results far south of the border, with Mexico and Guatemala stepping up efforts to deter and detain the surge of migrants from Central America.

Mexico claims to have deployed 791 new immigration agents and promises some 6,000 National Guard to its southern border by Tuesday. Some soldiers were clearly visible Sunday on the Mexican side of the Suchiate River, giving migrants on the south shore in Guatemala second thoughts about crossing.

“They are waiting for nightfall,” said Abelino Reyes Chavez, a pedal taxi driver who works at the busy boat landing in Tecun Uman, Guatemala. “They show up around 7. But are we worried the Mexicans crackdown will hurt business? Yes, if they close the border my wages will go down.”

Shelters here in Tecun Uman are full. In a local park, we found 33-year-old Honduran immigrant Jose Acosta. He snuck into the U.S. eight months ago in Eagle Pass, Texas, but was apprehended weeks later in Houston on his way to a job in North Carolina. He is here waiting to cross, but fears getting stopped and deported by the Mexicans.

“They tell me to cross now but I am afraid because I don’t want to be returned to my country,” he said.

Previously, Mexican police showed little interest in stopping migrants headed to the U.S. Now, however, not only are Mexican police and soldiers visible, Sunday morning they stopped some rafts, demanding to see Mexican border crossing cards. But by the afternoon, they were gone.

“There will be a dog and pony show for the media,” said a former State Department deputy director responsible for Mexico who asked to remain anonymous because he still does business in Latin America. “Trump is looking for numbers and the Mexicans will produce them. I think it will have an impact.”

Journalist Enrique Naveda agrees, but not in a good way.

“It will not stop migration but it will have an impact,” said Naveda. “It will keep many more people in Guatemala than are escaping right now and Guatemala is not ready for that. “

Juan Carlos Zapata, who heads a Guatemala think tank and aid group trying to attract direct foreign investment, said he may not agree with the Trump strategy, especially when it comes to cutting aid, but admits it is prompting Central American politicians to confront their own problems, not export them to the U.S.

“It is forcing politicians to focus on those issues and to start talking about policies that can actually increase foreign investment to create job opportunities in our country,” he said.

Increasingly, immigration from Guatemala is coming from the rural areas and Western Highlands, an area devastated by droughts, floods and falling coffee prices. The police chief in a small town with a huge monument to migrants claims up to 40 percent of the young people left for the U.S. Crime there is almost non-existent, and countrywide violent crime is down – homicides by half. But in cities, businessmen complain about extortion.

The average age here 21, the youngest in the hemisphere. The numbers are similar to the 1990s, when Mexican men flooded the U.S. border looking for work.

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