SUCHIATE, Mexico – The flow of migrants across the Suchiate River, which separates Mexico and Guatemala, continues despite Mexico’s strengthening of its security measures and the repeated threats by US President Donald Trump.
It is 6:00 am and a group of people are illegally crossing the wide river, including people from other parts of the world who are fleeing their homelands and seeking a better future in Mexico and/or the United States.
Guided by some of their countrymen, their aim is to get to the 21st century immigration offices in the town of Tapachula, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the border with Guatemala in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas.
Ayop – from Africa – is one of those who have traveled thousands of kilometers. Her journey from Duala, Cameroon, to Mexico hasn’t been easy and has taken more than three months, during which she has passed through many dangerous countries.
“It’s been the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. I cried every day,” she told EFE a few minutes after first touching Mexican soil.
Ayop said that she left Cameroon because the country’s is governed badly, with an excessively centralized political system, and it has lots of corruption.
She said that she flew from Duala to Ecuador, traversed the Colombian jungle, the Panamanian forests and crossed Costa Rica, Honduras and Guatemala.
“And now I’m here,” said the 21-year-old, a little discombobulated to be in an unknown country but convinced that she will be able to request “asylum in Mexico.”
Ayop is just one of tens of thousands of migrants – the vast majority of them Central Americans – who illegally cross into Mexican territory, exposing themselves to the corruption of local authorities and the violence perpetrated by organized criminal organizations.
The volume of people has grown in recent months coinciding with the “caravan phenomenon,” which has caused diplomatic clashes between nations and raised tensions between Mexico and the US, particularly President Donald Trump, who last week announced that he will levy tariffs of between 5 percent and 25 percent on all Mexican products if Mexico cannot control the flow of illegal migrants.
According to figures from the National Migration Institute (Inami), Mexico deported 14,970 people in April, almost three times the 5,717 deported in December, when Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office.
Ayop hopes that the authorities will give her a visitor card for humanitarian reasons so that she can travel north to the US border, just like Kimbangu Nzenza Pitagor and one of his children, both from Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
He is patiently waiting for his wife and nine-month-old son to also receive visitor cards to be able to begin the northward trek toward the US.
“My brother paid $500 so a general would let me flee (from Kinshasa). And when he let me flee, I went to Angola, where I got a passport and came to Ecuador with my whole family. We walked slowly, a week to get to Panama,” he said.
He said that traveling to Europe was not a good option not because it was dangerous but because he thought he could not find work there.
On the other hand, he said he thought that he’d be able to get asylum in the US, find work and find a safe place for his family.
The journey “was very dangerous. I saw a mother with three kids die while she was waiting for the father. And another woman drowned. The river took her in Panama,” he said.
Estimates are that more than 2,000 migrants who are not from the Americas have been stranded for months in Tapachula and other nearby towns.
They are awaiting documents to be able to continue their journeys with their families, leaving behind the horror they experienced in their countries and the dangers they faced in getting to Mexico.