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Residents of a rural Mexican town say they’ve been overrun with migrants in recent years — and that the crush serves as a preview of what some American cities will soon face.
Thousands of migrants are flocking to Tapachula in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas from Central America, Haiti, Cuba and Venezuela on their way to the US, a local businessman in the coffee trade recently told The Post.
The influx has overwhelmed residents who have worked the local fields for generations but now face increased competition for employment and housing while the migrants use their town as a pit stop.
Locals also are battling against the presence of human and drug traffickers drawn to the area to take advantage of the newly arrived desperate masses.
“The city is almost unrecognizable from just a few years ago,” the coffee-industry businessman said. “It’s just waves of people. The locals don’t know what to think. The place they’ve lived in for so long is totally different all of a sudden.”
Tapachula’s problem is an indicator of how things will be for more and more US cities, residents added. Just this past week, 3,000 migrants who massed in the town set out on foot toward the US border.
The town’s locals say that while the migrants live in their area, longtime residents who dutifully obtain permits to sell modest goods on the street and in area marketplaces are forced to compete with newcomers who don’t bother with such legal formalities and crowd them out.
The increased competition is making it more difficult for the Mexicans to scratch out their already meager existence, forcing them to seek out other means of income in trying economic circumstances, residents said.
The flood of newcomers has also driven up the cost of local housing, from tiny rooms to apartments. With demand for living space exploding, property owners are able to charge more, making it a challenge for Mexicans to secure a roof over their heads, locals griped.
Other residents of the town said simmering tensions over such issues, as well as cultural clashes, are beginning to worsen as the streets clog with a growing number of migrants waiting for a chance to reach the United States.
Tapachulans, most of whom come from indigenous stock, are a traditionally unassuming people and are loath to voice their concerns with the waves of migrants into town, observers said.
But the concentration of migrants has also attracted the attention of human traffickers and drug cartels, who see potential profits in the desperate crowds.
The cartels’ presence has made it more difficult for locals to conduct basic business and has many concerned for their own safety as the crisis continues, residents said.
Local officials — both border control officers and police — are overwhelmed with the sheer volume of newcomers and unequipped to handle their complaints, denizens said.
Disputes often erupt in local markets, with some migrants complaining about prices or the availability of certain goods.
Cowed locals are intimidated and unwilling to push back, sources said.
“A lot of these people are desperate and want to work and better themselves,” a source said of the migrants. “But it’s having a real impact on people here who are already struggling.”
Last week, a caravan of about 3,000 migrants left Tapachula for the US and ended up blocking a highway to demand a speedier, safer route to Mexico’s northern border.
An organizer of the blockage, activist Irineo Mújica, defended the move, arguing that migrants live in fear of being preyed upon by extortionists and other criminal elements.
“We know we are causing discomfort for Mexicans, and we apologize,” she said. “But the drug cartels are kidnapping us, killing us.”