NENTÓN, Guatemala – The Aguilar family has been preparing for immigration north since February. They borrowed $ 2,600, made a down payment to a smuggler, and left their house in northern Guatemala last week.
But on Guatemala's border with Mexico, her smuggler had some bad news: Entering Mexico was too risky. An agreement between the Mexican authorities and the United States on 7 June to reduce migration had brought additional security forces to the border.
So far, the mobilization of the Mexican security forces has lagged behind the government's promised dramatic demonstration of power. with apparently only a fraction of the agreed 6,000 National Guard members operating in southern Mexico now.
"We do not know if this is a definitive change or just for some time," said Juan Alberto Aguilar, 27, who traveled with his wife and their 3-year-old daughter. The family was sitting dejectedly in the central square of Nentón, a village near the border between Guatemala and Mexico, waiting for the van to take them home.
The deployment plan is part of an agreement between the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico and the US government to thwart President Trump's threats with potentially crippling tariffs.
On Thursday, President Trump praised the Mexican president for his early efforts, Trump said. "It has already had a big impact."
In Ciudad Hidalgo, a bustling market town in Mexico near the southwestern end of the border, sellers have reported a significant decline in business over the last two weeks. Most of their clients are Guatemalans, who avoid paying their purchases by illegally returning to Guatemala with rafts crossing the Suchiate River delimiting this section of the border.
"People are afraid to come because they fear the government will come and take their goods," said Mary, a saleswoman in Ciudad Hidalgo, who asked that her surname be withheld for fear of government persecution , "We live on this trade, eat this trade."
30-year-old Silvia Avaja from Nentón, Guatemala, normally traveled to Mexico every three months to buy products such as soap, deodorant and toothpaste. But the new security measures in Mexico had frightened her.
She, too, had heard that the Mexican authorities had confiscated the buyers' black market goods.
"I'm thinking of not going there anymore," she said
However, the impact of the operation was felt most clearly in undocumented migrants, who now find more impenetrable Mexico.
Jonathan, 28, a Nicaraguan seminary student, said he had fled his homeland after being persecuted by the government and receiving death threats after attending anti-government protests last year. He initially tried to settle in Costa Rica, but flew to Guatemala and traveled by land to the border with Mexico.
Before the new migration he arrived in Frontera Comalapa, 40 miles to Mexico. Control measures brought his journey to a halt.
"I never thought it would be like this," he said, sitting in a soup kitchen one afternoon last week, considering the possibility that it was as far north as he was
Three Nicaraguan friends who had also made it to Frontera Comalapa had already returned to Central America to wait for a better moment to try to reach the United States.
But returning to Nicaragua, Jonathan said, was not such an option for him. His goal was still to reach the United States, which promised a far better livelihood.
"I will fight," he continued, calling for partial anonymity for his legal status in Mexico. "I will do anything to get there."
However, he is currently investigating the possibility of applying for asylum in Mexico. Proponents of migrants say that more and more Central Americans and others are choosing it, as it is one of the few options left open after the crackdown.
Elsewhere at the border, entrepreneurs who earn their living by offering migrants services have witnessed a decline.
"Before whole families crossed each other," said Israel López Ordoñez, 52, a veteran on the Suchiate River in Ciudad Hidalgo. "Now, no."
In the Guatemalan border town of La Mesilla, near Frontera Comalapa, 50-year-old Carmelo said several people he knew, including friends and family members, had broken plans for a northward migration in the United States last two weeks.
"It's not good," he said of the new measures. "When a Guatemalan travels to the US, many people here can live off this Guatemalan." Even migrant smugglers, responsible for the transportation of many, if not most, migrants to the US Southwestern border, delay or delay the journey north.
Like the Aguilar family, 19-year-old Guatemalan immigrant Ottoniel López was close to the Mexican border when his smuggler told him to turn around and drive home.
He said he had left On his trip to the United States, he knew he could face a number of potential dangers such as fatigue, hunger and possible violence. But the crackdown on the Mexican government was not part of his calculation.
"You always know it's going to be difficult," he said here in Nentón and leaned out of the van, which would take him part of the way to his home in southwestern Guatemala. "But now they said we could not get through because of all the blockages."
The agreement with the Trump administration gave President López Obrador 45 days to prove that Mexico could reduce the number of migrants entering the United States. Initially, Mexican officials said they would send a newly created National Guard to southern Mexico to hinder the influx of undocumented migrants north.
But the mission was stopped and confused.
At first he was pushed back again and again. Then Mexican officials withdrew their initial promise to mobilize 6,000 National Guards and instead announced that the armed forces would also include members of the armed forces. The deployment would take place in the southern border states of Mexico.
Chiapas officials also conceded that curbing illegal immigration by the state, which has a long border with Guatemala, would be extremely difficult, if not impossible.
The mountain region is criss-crossed by minor roads and footpaths. And residents and others speculated that the deadlocked corruption among government officials who promoted smugglers and migrants would not be eliminated so quickly.
But the number of roadblocks on some major motorways in southern Mexico has increased according to local residents, and the migration authorities and security forces working with them seem to be more thorough in checking passing vehicles for undocumented migrants.
The authorities have also begun the more ambitious work to combat smuggling operations, which are responsible for accompanying many, if not most, migrants north
Proponents of migrants have warned that the crackdown may result in human rights violations. These concerns were underscored by the recent death of a 19-year-old Salvadoran migrant who drove in a lorry for which the death penalty was imposed on the United States border. Witnesses told investigators that men in police uniforms and a police vehicle opened the fire on the truck after it passed a migration checkpoint in Veracruz state and raided military forces, some of which were armed with National Guard bracelets, were re-commissioned to conduct night patrols and interviewing occupants of passing vehicles and inspecting their cargo.
Proponents of immigrants anticipated the increasing presence of security forces I would further reduce the number of people trying to migrate north, but they expected the streams to recover over time, perhaps over more remote ones and more dangerous migration routes.
"It's going to be when Trump became president, and the immigration rate went down for a few months, then rose again," said David Tobasura, a Chiapas-based immigration consultant to the American Friends Service Committee. "This will not stop the migration. Surely it will go up in a few weeks or months. It will be the same as before. "