With a line of Mexican National Guardsmen behind them, a couple of migrant children campout on the Mexican shore of the Suchiate river on the border with Guatemala, near Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. (Photo: AP)
Hundreds of Central American migrants were stranded in a sort of no-man’s land on the river border between Guatemala and Mexico after running up against lines of Mexican National Guard troops deployed to keep them from moving en masse into the country and on north toward the US.
Naked children played amid the sand and trash Monday evening as clothing and shoes hung from the trees to dry along the Suchiate River, normally a porous waterway plied all day by rafts ferrying people and goods across. Men grilled a fish over a small fire below the border bridge, and migrants bedded down under blankets on the banks or dry sections of the riverbed without knowing what might come next.
The path forward was blocked Monday by Mexican troops with riot shields, and about 100 National Guard agents continued to form a barrier with anti-riot gear into the night. But a return home to impoverished and gang-plagued Honduras, where most of the migrants are from, was unthinkable.
“We are in no-man’s land,” said Alan Mejía, whose 2-year-old son was cradled in his arms clad only in a diaper as his wife, Ingrid Vanesa Portillo, and their other son, 12, gazed at the riverbanks. Mejía joined in five previous migrant caravans but never made it farther than the Mexican border city of Tijuana.
“They are planning how to clear us out, and here we are without water or food,” said a desperate Portillo. “There is no more hope for going forward.”
Unlike was often the case with previous caravans, there was no sign of humanitarian aid arriving for those stuck at the river.
Throngs waded across the Suchiate into southern Mexico on Monday hoping to test US President Donald Trump’s strategy to keep Central American migrants away from the US border. The push also challenged Mexico’s ramped-up immigration policing that began last year in response to threats of economic tariffs from Trump, a change that effectively snuffed out the last caravan in April.
Some scuffled with National Guard troops on the riverbank while others slipped through the lines and trudged off on a rural highway, with most taken into custody later in the day. Still others were taken into custody on the spot or chased into the brush. Some migrants hurled rocks at the police, who huddled behind their plastic shields and threw some of the rocks back.
Most of the migrants, however, stayed at the river’s edge or stood in its waters trying to decide their next move after being blocked earlier in the day from crossing the bridge linking Tecun Uman, Guatemala, with Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico.
The Immigration Institute said late Monday in a statement that about 500 migrants had entered irregularly and announced the “rescue” of 402 of them — using the term it frequently employs to describe migration detentions; It said the latter were taken to holding centers and offered medical care.
The institute said five National Guard troops were hurt but did not give details.