Mexican government announces Presidio transmigrante route

A transmigrante with a vehicle for resale in tow. Debates and rumors over transmigrantes — traveling Central American merchants who buy used goods in the United States and resell them back home — have been causing worry in Presidio city. Photo by Sara Button for The Big Bend Sentinel.

PRESIDIO — It’s official: The Mexican government is setting up a new transmigrante route through Presidio/Ojinaga. After years of rumors about such a route, the news was formally announced last month in the Diario Oficial de la Federación, the Mexican equivalent of the federal register.

Last month’s announcement — buried in new regulations about international trade — marks the first time the Mexican government has officially confirmed the route. In a short section on “baggage and allowance” rules for transmigrantes, Mexican officials said that transmigrantes would now be processed by customs officials in Ojinaga.

Los Indios, the East Texas town that currently serves as the only approved transmigrante port of entry, will also remain a route, according to the announcement. Mexico hasn’t released any other information on Presidio’s route, including when exactly it would open.

Transmigrantes are traveling merchants from Central America who purchase consumer goods in the United States and resell them back home. The merchants aren’t allowed to sell those goods in Mexico, and the country tightly regulates the industry, funneling transmigrantes onto certain routes and cataloging their goods as they enter and leave the country.

Before the coronavirus crisis, the proposed transmigrante route was one of the most hotly discussed topics in Presidio. Some locals — particularly brokers — see the new route as a potential new source of economic development. Officials worry about the impacts of thousands of new travelers on traffic and quality of life. U.S. 67, the main route north of Presidio, is just two lanes.

With Mexico’s announcement, Presidio city officials are going back to the drawing board. On the city council agenda on Wednesday after the Presidio International went to press, the city was set to discuss its response to the “official announcement by Mexico regarding transmigrante traffic.”

With a new administration soon arriving in Washington, John Ferguson, Presidio mayor, is hopeful that this time around, city officials can get more help from federal leaders. City officials are still not thrilled with the proposed route, Ferguson said, viewing it as a source of traffic and other issues.

Last year, when the transmigrante route was mostly just a rumor, Presidio City Council passed a resolution opposing it. But now — with new members on city council and the route officially announced — the city will instead focus on preparing.

“We don’t want to just say, ‘Hey, we passed a resolution and we don’t want this.’ That’s kind of burying your head in the sand,” Ferguson said. “Our feelings are, if we have to deal with it, we’re going to.”