Live Like an Illegal Immigrant in Mexico

Ben Barnier, ABC News, February 4, 2009

They walked through the cold night for hours with just a flashlight, led by a trained guide, or coyote, as they are known, through the thick woods.

They tried to escape the “migra,” slang for border patrol, to make it to their dreamland.

“Somebody tried to cross the line?” a migra officer asked while browsing through the bush. “If you hear me, please show up or surrender. Please return to Mexico or come here; we can take you back.”

Despite the patrol, the loud sirens and the gunshots, what took place that night in the woods of Parque Eco Alberto, in the Hidalgo State of Mexico, was just a game, a theme attraction called “Caminata Nocturna,” or the “Night Hike.”

The event was organized by members of the indigenous Notomi tribe to show people what it’s like to cross the Rio Grande illegally.

While the group of young people that ABC News followed that night was hiding in the bush, half a dozen fake border patrol officers stormed in on four illegal immigrants, who were played by actors.

The migra grabbed them violently, pushed them to the ground and handcuffed them.

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The four men were then hauled onto the platform of a pickup truck and “deported.”

The Caminata is not exactly what most people would want for a weekend out in Mexico; temperatures were in the low 40s in Parque Eco Alberto that night, the ride takes four hours and the path is slippery. Still, about 40 young people that night paid around $10 for the hike.

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Then, to escape the migra, the group hid inside a dark narrow tunnel.

“Don’t listen to those coyotes,” a migra officer said through a bullhorn. “Those people don’t care about you, they only care about your money.”

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Training camp for illegal immigrants?

Critics of the game say this is really a training camp for illegal immigrants, but one of the coyotes that night said it’s the exact opposite.

Asked what his message was to the participants that night, he said: “That they should not do it for real. It shows them how dangerous it is.”

Some of the Caminata coyotes have actually crossed the Mexican-U.S. border without documents in the past.

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