FRONTERA HIDALGO, Mexico -- It was still dark when the first Guatemalan farm worker walked ashore in Mexico early Thursday, just the bottoms of his shorts damp from the shallow ford of the Suchiate River.
As the sky brightened, another man drove a big blue tractor across the muddy waters to Guatemala with a sprayer on the back. A short time later a man and a boy crossed astride a horse, followed by a man carrying his sandals and pants to keep them dry.
Such scenes are part of daily life in the Mexican border town of Frontera Hidalgo, where it's not just migrants crossing the river but also locals for whom the frontier is essentially a cartographers' construct to be ignored when it's time to work or shop. Mexico announced recently that it is sending 6,000 agents of its new, still-forming, militarized police force known as the National Guard to its southern region for immigration enforcement as part of a deal with Washington to avoid President Donald Trump's threatened tariffs on Mexican imports.
But those who live here predict that won't be able to stop the surge in mostly Central American migrants crossing over the notoriously porous border on their way toward the United States, though it could force them into the hands of smugglers and to more dangerous crossing points while altering a way of life that has carried on as long as anyone can remember.
The Suchiate cuts a winding north-south course en route to the Pacific Ocean here, the westernmost part of Mexico's 697-mile southern frontier with Guatemala and Belize. Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero said this week there are at least 300 known points that are hotspots for illegal crossings, as well as 12 official ports of entry.
Elsewhere, the Mexico-Guatemala border passes through dense jungle, with few roads. Around Frontera Hidalgo the terrain is a patchwork of small farm fields and large banana and palm plantations, with small towns and villages dotting both sides of the riverbank.
While technically illegal, the relaxed back-and-forth flow of people has long been largely tolerated. But word of the impending deployment is making people jittery -- even though no Guard agents have arrived so far to join federal police, soldiers and immigration agents who stepped up enforcement in recent months.
Eleven young men carrying knapsacks, also field hands coming to work for the day in Mexico, cautiously entered the river from the Guatemalan side Thursday but midway across caught sight of unfamiliar faces on the Mexican shore and hid in the brush on an island. For all they knew, the three Associated Press journalists could be border agents.
By the time they emerged on the Mexican side, one said they had missed the bus to their farm jobs and would have to go back home for the day, a sign of the increasing nervousness palpable in the people.