TAPACHULA, Mexico – Calls of “Water, water. I sell ice water,” are heard in the crowd waiting in the 35-degree C (95 F) heat near the Mexican Refugee Aid Commission (Comar) offices in the southern Mexican town of Tapachula. It is Walter Lara Tinoco, from Honduras, trying to get by while he awaits a response to his own asylum request.
Slender, dark-skinned and dressed modestly, he carries with him a cooler containing several bottles of water, walking through downtown Tapachula, in the southeastern state of Chiapas, and telling EFE that he arrived with the first caravan of migrants who crossed the Suchiate River in 2018 intending to improve their living conditions and those of their children.
He left Honduras heading for the United States, but when he crossed the Suchiate from Guatemala into Mexico somebody recommended that he investigate settling permanently in Mexico.
“I left San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in June 2018. On July 6, I crossed the river in a boat and on the 7th I got to the Fray Matias de Cordova organization,” he said, referring to the civil association based in Tapachula devoted to defending the human rights of migrants.
There, they gave him a form which he filled out and brought to Comar, and since that time he has been awaiting a favorable response that would allow him to remain in Mexico.
He said that in Honduras he worked in basic mechanics, but – disappointed at not being able to get secure employment – he decided to emigrate despite the dangers and, encouraged by his children, he crossed into Mexico with other families.
“In my country, after age 35 you don’t even apply for a job at a company. I worked as a young man in a laboratory company, I worked in big companies ... but when you get older they push you to the side. You feel excluded and that marginalizes you and makes you into just one more unemployed person,” he said.
Walter, like hundreds of other Central Americans, is waiting in Tapachula for permission to get a formal job in Mexico.
But in the meantime, the 50-year-old sells bottles of water to people waiting to be attended to by Comar personnel.
“They treat me well here ... The first few days were tough because we had to sleep in the park, go to a shelter. I was in the Belem shelter for 15 days,” he said.
“After I left, I found an apartment because (the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Office) gives us a stipend to rent an apartment so we can live with dignity. That is thanks to the international (community). They are supporting whole families and we’re grateful to them and to the Mexican people,” he added.
That is the result of a plan announced on Nov. 15, 2018, by the heads of the Government and Labor Secretariats, the aim of which is to incorporate migrants into paid jobs that provide personal and family stability, Suchiate Mayor Sonia Eloina Hernandez Aguilar told EFE.
The Mexican government “gives them some money, a job so that they have a way to survive and they don’t need to turn to crime ... so that while they’re on their humanitarian visa they can get by,” she said.
Along with Walter, there are dozens of men and women working alongside Mexicans who are enrolled in the federal programs providing temporary employment.
Meanwhile, Chiapas is preparing for the start of National Guard operations on June 18 to halt the migrant flow toward the United States.
That is when, as Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said on June 14, 6,000 Guard personnel will start patrolling the southern border area to help immigration authorities.
The Guard – a new security force made up of federal police, soldiers and marines – will officially begin its tasks on June 30, but the recent diplomatic clash with the US and President Donald Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on Mexican products if the migrant tide is not halted led Mexican officials to accelerate the Guard deployment near the border.