Migrant crisis in Mexico: Families sneak through tall grass to avoid checkpoints

Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico

Around twenty people piled into a van designed for 13 people. They crossed a river on a makeshift raft and hope to travel about 20 kilometers to reach their next stop. But soon after, the van stops and everyone has to get out.

Passengers – children and parents, elderly couples and single adults – paid to get from Ciudad Hidalgo in Mexico, a small town on the border with Guatemala, to Tapachula, the nearest town.

But they entered Mexico without permission or papers, so the van driver told them to go around a checkpoint and get picked up on the other side by him or another vehicle.

The families collect their belongings and take a paved path as we join them, the tall grass largely hiding them from view of the highway and the Mexican authorities.

It’s no secret, just like everyone knows that rafts transport people across the Suchiate River and the international border.

Sometimes Mexican authorities shout at walkers across the grass and tell them to get back on the main road.

No one pays civil servants notice. The migrants continue walking, sometimes signaling each other to crouch lower to stay out of sight.

We didn’t see any officials bothering to pursue them as they traveled the unofficial migrant route, just meters from National Route 200 that runs from the northern border.

This static game of cat and mouse will play out several times after several checkpoints on the course. Each stop results in a 20 or 30 minute walk and worry about whether the promised transportation will be there on the other side.

The migrants CNN spoke with said it’s just another bump in their long road, another set of obstacles that will likely make what is usually an hour’s drive longer the day.

In Tapachula, they said they planned to seek asylum or permission to legally transit through Mexico in hopes of reaching the United States.

Two families from Venezuela said this would be their first contact with authorities since fleeing their troubled country. They say they traveled through Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala.

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“It’s like dealing with the mafia,” said Yeimiler Rodríguez, who told CNN that his family has so far paid about $1,000 per person for their 18-day odyssey.

As the sun sets, they reach Tapachula, their stop for the night. They may stay in town for several days, but no one expects to stay there forever.

Their eyes are on the United States – “the land of opportunity,” they say.

Tears flow from a woman as she sits in a van after successfully bypassing a checkpoint. A traveling companion tells him to pull himself together. “You didn’t want the American dream?” I called. “Wait for it. »