Haitians’ presence in southeast Mexico felt in street selling, remittances

By Juan Manuel Blanco

Tapachula, Mexico, Nov 22 (EFE).- Haitian migrants are having a considerable impact on the economy at Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, where they sell goods in the informal sector and receive remittances from family members in the United States.

Hundreds of Haitians have camped out in recent weeks at the central park in the border city of Tapachula, making ends meet as small retailers while waiting for the National Institute of Migration to issue them humanitarian safe-passage permits for overland travel to the US-Mexico border.

Haitian migrants represented the third-most asylum requests in Mexico in the year’s first 10 months, accounting for 13,493 petitions, or nearly 14 percent of the 97,973 the government’s Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR) received between January and October.

Migrants from Haiti and other foreign countries, meanwhile, accounted for a significant portion of the record $43 billion in total remittances that Mexico received in the first three quarters of 2022.

“In southeast Mexico, in the states of Chiapas, Yucatan, Tabasco, Campeche and Quintana Roo, remittances from foreigners who live in the United States and send (money) to Cuban, Venezuelan and African migrants constitute the leading source of income for citizens, retailers and businesspeople,” Jose Luis Perez Jimenez, an attorney and immigration specialist in southeastern Mexico, told Efe.

Haitian migration to Mexico has risen sharply since 2021, when a political crisis stemming from the assassination of then-President Jovenel Moise caused conditions in that impoverished and natural disaster-racked Caribbean country to worsen even further.

One of the faces of that crisis is Acceus, a Haitian migrant who sells water and soft drinks out of a wheelbarrow in Tapachula.

That informal shop provides him with just enough income to rent a house and cover the cost of food and essential services for his family while he waits to receive his safe-passage documents.

Acceus walks between eight and 13 hours a day in search of customers.

Groups of Haitian migrants also have established themselves behind Tapachula’s Sebastian Escobar Market, where they sell food, clothing, shoes, sweets, corn and cellphone and clothing accessories and offer haircuts.

Sergio Motaña is a Haitian citizen who told Efe he has sold all types of merchandise in Tapachula, from cellphone SIM cards to dollars, soft drinks and even food.

“For me, (Tapachula) is a really nice place. There are lots of good people who have helped us. It’s just (the immigration authorities) who are really difficult. To get the papers so we can leave here, travel to another place; (it’s) a bit difficult to get the permit,” he said in broken Spanish.

The influx of Haitians and other foreigners in Tapachula is the product of a broader northward migration phenomenon that saw the United States’ Customs and Border Protection agency stop undocumented migrants more than 2.76 million times in the 12 months that ended Sept. 30.

That figures compares to 1.72 million times in fiscal year 2021, the previous yearly high. EFE


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