The town of El Ceibo is but a little speck along the Guatemala-Mexico line.
Retailers work at a handful of stores catering primarily to Mexican shoppers who cross the border on day trips, and farmworkers tend to bean and corn crops on the surrounding land.
Over the past month, though, El Ceibo, Guatemala, has been crowded with the daily arrival of buses full of migrants being expelled from Mexico.
Some are young mothers with small children, others are young men traveling alone. Some are fleeing poverty, others are fleeing persecution. Many were pushed out of the US into Mexico without their cases being heard, while the rest were taken into custody in Mexico.
As the Biden administration and their Mexican counterparts grapple with the Supreme Court’s order to reinstate the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy, which forced tens of thousands US asylum-seekers to wait out their cases south of the border, the Mexican government is quietly sending hundreds of Central American migrants every day to rural Guatemala.
The high court this week told the Biden administration that it’s violating federal law by trying to rescind the policy, which hasn’t been in effect since March 2020.
Meanwhile, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said in a news conference Thursday that Mexico helping the US on immigration “can’t go on forever.”
Most migrants arriving in El Ceibo find themselves lost in a small town surrounded by marshlands and hills. This week, they included Walter Videz, a 31-year-old salesman who said he fled his native Honduras because he couldn’t find work and could no longer afford to pay the extortion demanded by a local gang.
Videz said he had been taken into custody by Mexican immigration officials earlier in the day and immediately put on a southbound bus. He and the other migrants with him realized they were being dropped in rural Guatemala only when they saw a border sign — even though immigration officials told them they were taking them to Honduras, he said.
“They lied to us,” Videz said.
Videz said he hadn’t eaten in the 24 hours since he was detained, and that he didn’t have any money to buy food.
United Nations agencies and human rights organizations expressed concern this week over the new US measures leaving people stranded in Guatemala. Without screening migrants for their reasons for fleeing, the governments were potentially putting them at risk.