Tapachula, Mexico is a modern day Babel.
A report this week from Mexico’s National Institute of Migration (INM) found that between Nov. 23, 2022 and May 6, the agency’s office in the southern state of Chiapas, where Tapachula is located, gave out visas and permits to 81,245 migrants from 103 nations across the globe.
The vast majority of the migrants came to Mexico from countries in South America — Venezuela, where many migrants fled the poverty that goes hand-in-hand with socialist rule, topped the list with a staggering 23,329 nationals.
Ecuador and Haiti followed with 14,238 and 12,986 migrants, respectively.
But on the list of countries were 4 Swiss nationals, 39 from Kyrgyzstan, 345 people from Afghanistan, and 738 from China.
The longest journey was made by one person from Singapore — over 10,700 miles away.
“These people come here because they think it’s easier to go from here to the States…They don’t want to stay in Mexico,” said Eunice Rendon, coordinator for Agenda Migrante, an advocacy organization for migrants in Mexico.
In Tapachula — which is less than thirty minutes from Mexico’s border with Guatemala — The Post spoke with migrants fleeing political and economic instability, who said risking their lives was worth it for a shot at a better future thousands of miles away.
“No one can change the situation” in China, said Zhang Zhiyuan, 68, a preacher and former professor at Hefei University, who is traveling to Los Angeles where nearly 200 of his students currently live.
Sweating through a wrinkled yellow shirt in the humid 81-degree heat, Zhang and his wife, Luo Min, 43, recalled being “persecuted” by the Communist Chinese government back home in Shanghai.
“In China there is hardship. People work harder and harder, but there is no freedom of speech, no religious speech,” Luo said, noting that they sold their house to afford their multi-continental trip and planned on applying for asylum in the United States.
“We [could] not go to church for several years.”
The International Organization for Migration in Mexico pointed to myriad factors — including the global economic impact of COVID-19, climate change-related disasters and violence — contributing to the international hodgepodge of migrants flooding the southern border of Mexico en route to the United States.
“Even as policy shifts, these deep-rooted issues persist, underscoring the need to promote safe, orderly, and dignified migration,” the group said in a statement.
For a group of Afghanistan migrants standing outside, the Taliban’s rise to power following the United States’ exit sparked their cross-continental trek.
“The Taliban went after us over our professions” said a social worker, noting that he had helped aid a women’s empowerment organization while another had worked as a journalist.
One of his companions, a 26-year-old civil engineer in a brown knockoff Louis Vuitton shirt, shuddered recalling the horrors of trekking through the Darien Gap — a lawless area of thick jungle between Colombia and Panama.
“It was everything you think you will face,” he said quietly. “Animals. Death.”
“If you were sick, they left you behind.”
Huang Qing, 40, a cell phone factory worker from China’s Hubei province, said that he spent $6,000 in credit card debt on his journey so far, flying to Quito before taking a bus through Central America.
The cost is worth it to possibly reach New York City, though, because getting an American visa the traditional route is “almost impossible for ordinary people,” he said.
“America is the most democratic country in the world, and it’s for making money,” he said rosily about his potential future home, where he plans on learning English while working as a masseur or delivery worker.
“If I will work hard, I believe I can change my life or my family’s life.”
Many migrants from around the world may have ended up in Chiapas in the past month because of the news that they could easily obtain temporary permits from the Mexican government — allowing them more than a month to make their way across Mexico to the southern United States border, Rendon noted.
“The government doesn’t want the immigration problem and for migrants to be stuck in here, so that’s why they’re making it easier to process visas,” Hope David Zuta Medina, 24, said Thursday, sitting in the shade outside of a bus depot while dreaming about his future working on a ranch in Georgia.
But in the wake of pandemic-era Title 42 policy lapsing, Mexico announced several steps to crack down on migrants crossing the border into Mexico from Guatemala.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador promised Thursday to send more National Guard forces to the country’s southern border, Bloomberg reported, although The Post observed armed forces taking no action yet against groups people illegally crossing the Suchiate River — on makeshift river tube rafts from Guatemala into Mexico.
“In the past, when they tried to be very strict, very forceful, there was a lot of criticism that they were violating human rights and so on, so they have to be very cautious,” said Andrés Ramírez, head of the Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid about brand new measures. “We are in the eve of elections in Mexico, and this is very political.”
The Institute of Migration, meanwhile, ordered its offices nationwide to stop issuing the temporary permits and shuttered a makeshift office in Tapachula’s Ecological Park handing out the travel documents. Earlier this week, The Post photographed thousands of migrants handing themselves in to get the permits at the makeshift facility.
“[The INM]…ordered all immigration offices in all states not to grant Multiple Immigration Forms, or any other document that authorizes transit through the country,” according to a fact sheet circulated at a conference held by López Obrador.
Amadou Diallo, 32, who had left military-run Guinea a month ago, urged the Mexican government to continue providing aid to migrants and allowing them to pass through to make their way to the United States.
“The Mexican state should create the conditions to help people who come, because we are really in need,” said Diallo, standing in a line along with hundreds of confused and exhausted migrants outside of the Ecological Park Friday — waiting to see whether they could still obtain permits.
Diallo said that his journey, which involved flying to Brazil before traveling by bus to Mexico, said he would do whatever was necessary to reach the United States.
There, he marveled, “if you want a job, you can have a job.”
“I would travel illegally, because we can’t return to Guinea,” he said, noting that the police killed at least seven people during nation-wide protests this week.
“When we [left], life [was] not tranquil.”
But suddenly beefed-up US border policies have caused some to abandon adjust their plans for crossing the United States — and instead stay in Mexico indefinitely.
Leyanis Durand, 44, said that she and her partner, Julio Eduardo Gamboa, left Cuba but fear that if they manage to cross the US border now, they’ll be among the first to be deported.
Instead, they’ve resigned themselves to settling in Monterrey, in northern Mexico, where they hope to pick up work in restaurants and occasionally see to Durand’s 21-year-old son who managed to cross the border into Houston, Texas, a few months ago.
“My son he said he’d like for us to go and stay in the States with him, but he’s telling me, ‘Mama, you sold everything to leave, so if you get deported to Cuba, you don’t have anything there. Don’t risk it.’”