Mexico limits non-essential travel on southern border

Guatemalan travelers cross the Suchiate River, border between Guatemala and Mexico, into Mexico aboard a raft near Ciudad Hidalgo, Sunday, March 21, 2021. Mexico sent hundreds of immigration agents, police and National Guard officers marching through the streets of the capital of the southern state of Chiapas to launch an operation to crack down on migrant smuggling. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico — The Mexican banks of the Suchiate river dawned Sunday with a heavy presence of immigration agents in place to enforce Mexico’s new limits on all but essential travel at its shared border with Guatemala.

Dozens of immigration agents lined the riverside asking those who landed on the giant innertube rafts that carry most of the cross-border traffic for documentation and turning many back.


But those turned away weren’t migrants, they were the small-time Guatemalan merchants and residents from Tecun Uman, across the river, who buy in bulk in Mexico to re-sell in Guatemala when the exchange rate favors it.

“They haven’t let us enter because they think we’re migrants when really we’re only coming to shop,” said Amalia Vázquez, a Guatemalan citizen with her baby tied to her back and seven other relatives accompanying her.

Mexico is again under pressure to slow the flow of migrants north as the U.S. government wrestles with growing numbers, especially of families and unaccompanied minors.

Mexico’s National Immigration Institute says smugglers are telling Central American migrants to bring children to improve their chances of entering Mexico and the United States.

The flow hasn’t reached early 2019 levels yet, but the U.S. government is worried by the rapid increase in illegal entries since last fall.