On Mexico’s southern border, government officials are largely absent

Latin America

Photo by Franc Contreras

At the Suchiate River, marking the border between Mexico and Guatemala, an untold number of undocumented immigrants cross daily on their way north.

CGTN’s Franc Contreras reports from the Mexico-Guatemala border.

In broad daylight, this reporter sees several groups of immigrants crossing the border and arriving with no documents. There’s no presence of Mexican security or immigration officials.

Photo by Franc Contreras

This year, as well as the past five years, Mexican immigration documents indicate that that vast majority of these migrants are fleeing violence in Honduras.

Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas shares a nearly 655-kilometer border with Guatemala. For decades, it has been the key crossing point for Central American migrants.

In 2014, Mexico’s federal government launched Operation Southern Border, which was designed to crack down on illegal crossings. As a result, apprehensions rose 85-percent during its first two years, according to the Washington Office on Latin America.

Photo by Franc Contreras

On a few occasions, authorities rescued undocumented immigrants trapped inside trailers.

Chiapas State has its own police force committed to protecting migrants. The director said his officers have dismantled 139 small-scale criminal organizations targeting undocumented immigrants crossing through Chiapas.

“Just a few days ago we rescued an under-aged minor who been kidnapped for two months by his own traffickers. We detained that migrant smuggler. That immigrant child was returned to his family and is now in their care,” said Chiapas State Prosecutor for Crimes Against Immigrants, Ignacio Alejandro Vila Chávez.

CGTN cameras captured a moment one federal police agent and his unofficial helpers known as “madrinas” detained a van loaded with migrants on a highway near Tapachula. The men posing as police became visibly nervous and quickly left the area.

Photo by Franc Contreras

A leading expert on Mexico’s southern border, Enrique Coraza de los Santos of the Colegio de la Frontera Sur University, said Mexican federal, state and local police are known to use men posing as police to extort undocumented immigrants.

“The actions of public servants often do not measure up to what should be under the law, and there are many abuses against undocumented immigrants,” Coraza said. “Instead of helping, this sort of behavior increases insecurity here.”

Coraza and other leading experts said corruption, limited resources and the ability of migrants and smugglers to evade detention only add to the complexity of this on-going drama.