It’s a mad dash on Guatemala’s border with Mexico, with migrants scrambling across the Suchiate River on planked inter-tubes, which were also used to ship black market booze and other goods in the other direction.
Central American migrants are rushing to enter Mexico ahead of a security crackdown on the country’s southern border following Mexico’s announcement that it will accelerate the deployment of troops to its border with Guatemala. pic.twitter.com/UTgbEiq2rZ
— ANews (@anewscomtr) June 14, 2019
“Central American migrants are rushing to enter Mexico ahead of a security crackdown on the country’s southern border following Mexico’s announcement that it will accelerate the deployment of troops to its border with Guatemala,” ANews posted to Twitter with video from the river.
Men standing on pallets strapped to inter-tubes used simple push poles to guide a steady flow of men, women and children carrying backpacks for the long journey north through Mexico, including many from Honduras. The makeshift rafts were then loaded with “black market Corona beer, coffee, and other contraband” and returned to Guatemala, according to the news site.
“Recently, Guatemala began to harden their immigration laws, and they are trying to detain those who are in Guatemala illegally, which is something that you hadn’t seen,” an unidentified migrant told ANews. “So, that means the southern border will be completely closed for immigration.”
The exodus followed the announcement from Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard that the country will begin to deploy 6,000 National Guard soldiers to the Guatemalan border as part of a recent agreement with the Trump administration to crack down on rampant migration through the country.
“Starting from today, and in the coming days, the deployment is going to progress rapidly,” he said at a news conference alongside President Andres Manual Lopez Obrador, according to Reuters.
Trump threatened Mexico with a 5 percent tariff on all imported goods unless leaders agreed to do more to address illegal immigrants flooding through the country and into the United States. Officials estimate well over 1 million illegal immigrants will come across the border to seek asylum in fiscal year 2019. The vast majority are currently released into the country to await adjudication of their claims, which takes years with the severely backlogged immigration court system.
A Reuters photographer reported no visible signs of the Mexican National Guard on Mexico’s southern border as of late Wednesday, though there were plenty of checkpoints staffed by the army, marines and Federal Police. There were also plenty of people still hoping to head north.
“I’m just passing through here because I’m going to the United States,” one migrant waiting in Guatemala told the news service through a translator. “It’s complicated. Too many people cross (the border) here.
“There are a lot of nationalities like Haitians, Colombians, Cubans, Africans. So, too many.”
Aside from increased immigration enforcement, Mexican officials also agreed to allow asylum seekers to wait out their claims in Mexico, rather than the U.S., and President Trump has touted other secret agreements that he plans to unveil when the time is right. An unsigned seven-page draft of a White House agreement obtained by Voice of America news suggests the agreement could be a “safe third country” protocol between the U.S. and Guatemala.
The draft is set to be presented to the government in Guatemala City this week.
Under the terms of the agreement, migrants fleeing persecution in El Salvador and Honduras would be required to seek asylum in Guatemala, a gateway to Mexico and the United States. With few exceptions, those who continue north to the U.S. without testing their chances in Guatemala would be sent back to Guatemala by U.S. immigration authorities.
Mexico has resisted entering a “safe third country” agreement as part of its recent deal with the Trump administration to avoid punishing tariffs. But talks of a regional pact emerged shortly after President Donald Trump revealed he had agreed to terms with Mexico to curb migration levels through increased Mexican enforcement.
Ebrard told Reuters Mexico has also invited the United Nations child relief agency UNICEF to help with the epidemic of minors fleeing Central America.
Lopez Obrador told the media Mexico plans to sell a former presidential plane for at least $150 million, as well as other aircraft, to help fund the immigration crackdown.
Meanwhile, migrants in a central plaza in Tapachula, Mexico told Al Jazeera the crackdown on illegal immigrants in Mexico has gradually escalated, particularly in the past two weeks.
Police often sweep the plaza at night and arrest migrants from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala for deportation, several told the news service.
“They do not care if you have papers,” a Honduran said, referring to an application for a humanitarian visa. “They rip them up.”
Al Jazeera reports conflicting information from informants regarding when, exactly, the Mexican National Guard will deploy to the southern border, but noted that the first class of recruits are not expected to graduate until June 30.
Mexico created the National Guard this spring to fill the void in law enforcement left by the country’s deeply corrupt police forces, according to media reports.