EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – More than 4,000 Haitian migrants have crossed the Mexico-Guatemala border this week, some with the intention of staying there, some with their sights set on seeking asylum in the United States, according to Mexican news reports.

The Haitians are crossing the Suchiate River that separates the Mexican state of Chiapas and the Guatemalan department of San Marcos in groups of 10 to 60, paying smugglers 100 pesos ($5) to get them across in rafts, Milenio reported.

Those who make it past the Mexican immigration checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo are showing up at the Refugee Commission Office (COMAR) in Tapachula, Mexico, to request aid and temporary humanitarian visas, the digital portal reported.

Many Haitian families have taken up residence on the streets of Tapachula, where they are selling trinkets on sidewalks to survive. Their presence worries local authorities and the business community because of the lack of social distancing and COVID-19 preventive measures among the new arrivals, Diario de El Sur reported.

A human rights defender told El Heraldo de Chiapas that at least 11,000 Haitians are now in Tapachula.

In February, U.S. authorities in El Paso, Texas expelled 140 Haitian migrants to Juarez. However, Juarez authorities across the border said they have not seen an increase in the arrival of Haitian families to the area yet.

According to studies from think-tanks like the Migration Policy Institute, Haitians have been migrating for the past several years due to natural disasters, political instability, economic disadvantage and gang violence.

Press coverage of the Haitian influx in southern Mexico has been critical, focusing on their potential negative impact to local commerce and public health.

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