In 2019 President Donald Trump threatened to levy a 5 percent tariff on all Mexican goods unless the country agreed to beef up its immigration enforcement. As Esther Honig explains in FERN’s latest story, published with The Nation, Mexico acquiesced and deployed troops along its southern border with Guatemala, limiting the free movement of migrants. As a result, countless people have been trapped in Tapachula, a sprawling border town, in what the international press has described as an “open-air prison.”
Many of the migrants take jobs in agriculture. They are helping to bolster the region’s multimillion-dollar export industry, and yet, even as the migrants provide desperately needed labor in the packing houses and the fields, reports abound of workplace discrimination and wage theft. The bitterest irony of all is that the coffee, bananas, and mangoes that the migrants are helping to harvest are destined for the very country responsible for keeping them here.