A Surge South of Mexico

Chris Kraul, Los Angeles Times, May 1

CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico—The flow of Central American immigrants bound for the United States has surged 25% or more this year, say government and aid agency officials, who point to a sharp climb in deportations, injury reports and need for assistance as the basis for their estimates.

Confronted with increasingly bleak economies in their home countries and rising gang violence, the immigrants, many of them young, are heading north through Mexico at a rate that Mexican and Honduran authorities agree has gone through the roof.

Alex Pacheco, the Honduran consul in the Mexican border city of Tapachula, about 20 miles north of here, says the number of stranded, broke and injured Hondurans he has helped is up 30% from when he arrived in late 2003.

“There is no reason to hide it. It’s grown at an exaggerated pace,” said Pacheco, who thinks the workload and the tales of woe have aged him prematurely. “The reason is simple: The majority of the countries they come from are in big trouble.”

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“It is a flow that is uncontainable in its magnitude,” said Mauricio Gandara Gallardo, the regional director of the National Immigration Institute in Tapachula. “The only way to stop it is with some economic development scheme so that these people have reason to stay in their home countries.”

But for many of the youths, the long, treacherous path to the U.S. is now a rite of passage.

“It’s become a passion among our youths, like soccer,” said Pacheco, the Honduran consul.

But he couldn’t talk long. He had to reunite a father with two daughters, barely teenagers, who had run away from Roatan, Honduras, to be with their mother in New York before being caught by Mexican authorities.

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