AN

IMMIGRANT'S

JOURNEY

BY CAITLIN DICKSON

This summer, news of a “border crisis” dominated America's headlines. Between October 1, 2013 and July 31, 2014, U.S. Border Patrol saw an unprecedented number of minors—most of them from Central America—crossing the border alone. Agents in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley apprehended 46,307 unaccompanied kids during that period of time—175 percent more than the year before—and 48,161 families, a near-500 percent increase from 2013. The deluge of kids and families on the border this year is the eruption of a slow-burning trend, as increasing numbers of people seek to flee endemic violence in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

 

While migration to the U.S through Mexico is nothing new, the escalating numbers of migrants have turned human smuggling into a lucrative business. The Mexican government estimates that 400,000 people from Central and South America illegally enter Mexico every year—the majority of them on their way to the U.S. Almost all of them are indebted to professional smugglers, or coyotes.

 

Though smugglers have started using buses and vans to shuttle groups through Mexico, the most popular mode of transit for illegal migrants is the notorious freight train known as La Bestia, or The Beast. This map illustrates the journey along one of the more commonly traveled routes through Mexico, from the Guatemalan border to the Rio Grande, and the dangers that many migrants encounter along the way.

 

46,307

400,000

UNACCOMPANIED KIDS IMMIGRATED FROM MEXICO THIS YEAR

PEOPLE ENTER MEXICO ILLEGALLY

EACH YEAR

Map Route

Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Penales

 

 

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WATER

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THIEVES

EXTORTION

TRAIN

CARTELS

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Cartel-affiliated or independent, thieves lurk along the most-trafficked migrant routes.

 Cartels commonly kidnap migrants and, assuming they have family with money in the U.S., extort them.

All along the train route, drug cartels, local street gangs, and corrupt politicians demand money from migrants in order to proceed. Refusal or inability to pay can get you pushed off the train. Migrants who ride atop the train are also in danger of falling.

Drug cartels rule different parts of Mexico, demanding money from migrants who wish to pass through their territory and orchestrating kidnappings of those whose families they think they can extort.

During the first three months of 2013, Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley Sector found the bodies of 70 migrants who either drowned in the river or died trekking through the brush surrounding it.

MAP IMAGES COURTESY OF

IMAGERY ©2014 DIGITALGLOBE, CNES/SPOT IMAGE, DATA SIO, NOAA, U.S. NAVY, NGA, GEBCO, LANDSAT, TERRAMETRICS, MAP DATA ©2014 GOOGLE, INEGI

MEXICO’S BORDER PATROL - REUTERS/JOSE LUIS GONZALEZ     TABASCO THE BEAST - PHOTO/ELIZABETH RUIZ    VERACRUZ CHECKPOINTS - REUTERS/EDGARD GARRIDO

 LECHERIA INCOMING BEAST - REUTERS/HENRY ROMERO     SAN LUIS CATHOLIC SHELTER - REUTERS/CARLOS JASSO      SALTIO SHELTER - REUTERS/DANIEL BECERRIL

CARTEL VIOLENCE IN REYNOSA - REUTERS/JORGE LUIS PLATA      RIO GRANDE RIVER - REUTERS/RICK WILKING     US BORDER PATROL PHOTO - JOHN MOORE/GETTY IMAGES