Mexico becomes a destination for migrants
THE Suchiate river is the southernmost stretch of Mexico’s border with Guatemala. At Ciudad Hidalgo there are two ways to cross it. You can use the bridge, which guarantees an encounter with an immigration official. Or you can walk down to the river bank, hire a raft (planks tied to the inner tubes of two tractor wheels) and get yourself punted across. Many passengers are Guatemalans who want to shop in Ciudad Hidalgo, where goods are cheaper. The Mexican border guards ignore the flotilla below them and its duty-dodging cargoes; they bring the town a lot of business.
Such rafts are also popular with Central Americans heading farther north, to the United States. But their number has dropped in recent months, says Alexander, who has piloted a raft for four years. Occupancy at the Casa del Migrante in nearby Tapachula has fallen by more than a third since 2016, says Julver Gordillo, who works at the hostel. Immigration police are catching far fewer Central Americans without the right documents this year (see chart).
The deterrent is Donald Trump. His administration’s temporary ban on refugees, increase in the deportations of unlawful migrants and plans to build a border wall have put off would-be migrants. “He’s been good at scaring people,” says Gustavo Mohar, a former Mexican undersecretary for migration, population and religious affairs. Since Mr Trump took office arrests of migrants at the United States’ southern border, half of whom are Central Americans, have dropped dramatically.
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