Perils En Route to US Mean More Central Americans Now Pin Hopes on Mexico

Lauren Villegran, Christian Science Monitor, June 13, 2013

Long an advocate for immigrant rights in the US, Mexico is increasingly following its northern neighbor’s footsteps, opting for apprehensions and heightened security along its southern border. It’s there that hundreds of Central American migrants begin the treacherous journey north – a route that has become so risky that increasing numbers are choosing to try their luck in Mexico.

President Enrique Peña Nieto’s promises to strengthen security at the country’s historically porous southern boundary came into focus last week with the announcement that the Marines will coordinate border security at the more than 620-mile border with Guatemala and Belize.

The route to el norte, the United States, is more dangerous and costly than ever. Over the past eight months, rights workers say criminals associated with Mexico’s Zetas drug cartel have taken control of the freight train route from Tabasco at the southern border to Tamaulipas in the north, the crossing point to the United States. Migrants face robbery, extortion, kidnapping, and death threats. Just last week the National Migration Institute said it rescued 165 migrants allegedly being held in Tamaulipas.


Rights workers say a 2011 immigration law designed to protect migrants’ rights – passed after a massacre of 72 migrants in Tamaulipas came to light – places what amount to insurmountable obstacles for most Central Americans to obtain transit documents or work visas here.


Of the migrants who stay, many are doing jobs locals don’t want to do. In northern Mexico, Central American migrants are working in cleaning services, in markets stocking fruit and vegetables, in carpentry, and in catering, says José Luis Manzo of the Casa del Migrante Saltillo in Coahuila.


US Border Patrol apprehensions of undocumented Mexicans at the southwest border have fallen steadily from nearly 1 million in fiscal year 2004 to about 262,341 in 2012. The number of people from countries other than Mexico picked up on the same border – the majority from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador – climbed 43 percent over the same period, to more than 94,532 last year.

The ailing US economy helped discourage Mexicans from heading north in recent years, but analysts say it’s more than that. A fundamental demographic shift – specifically a fertility rate that has fallen from more than seven children per family in the 1960s to just two today – means that Mexico has likely seen its last demographic bubble. The next generation of young people will be smaller than the current generation. Mexico’s job market, seen as improving along with a growing economy, won’t have to satisfy outsized demand for job opportunities.


But the same doesn’t hold true for Guatemala and Honduras, where fertility rates are still high and the populations are younger. Both countries, along with El Salvador, are plagued by violence and extreme poverty that drive people to seek opportunity elsewhere, even if it means taking a treacherous journey north.


“There is so much violence in Guatemala, too much violence,” says Manuel, the young man who stopped his journey short of the US. “A lot of organized crime. It’s here, too, but there is more opportunity.”


Under the current law, migrants may apply to reside legally in Mexico by marrying a local or having children here. Minors and refugees are also eligible for visas. But a proven job offer is no longer a path to legal residency as it was under the previous system.

“I want to be legal, and I’m trying,” Manuel says. “Here they treat us like garbage. They don’t see us as people.”


In announcing the Marines’ role in securing the southern border, Interior Ministor Miguel Osorio Chong said one thing Mexico will not do is build a border wall. Public policies will center on providing attention to migrants, and controlling the border. The idea, he said, is to help migrants to “prevent that they suffer or that they have any problem in our country.”

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  • Central Americans are doing the jobs Mexicans don’t want to do?
    Why am I laughing? …. This is good too:
    Under the current law, migrants may apply to reside legally in Mexico by marrying a local or having children here.
    Legally reside …. not become a citizen.

    • Mexicans are here to do the jobs we don’t do, Central Americans are in Mexico to do the jobs that Mexicans won’t do, and I guess Colombians are in Central America do the jobs Central Americans won’t do.

      Native born white Americans are on the short end of this stick.

      • The__Bobster

        I guess we won’t do any job, even though we were doing them for centuries.

  • Alexandra1973

    There is something horribly wrong with this picture….

    • Greg Thomas

      Yeah, we have 33 million illegal invading mexicans squatting on US soil and we refuse to put the Marines on our southern border. This country needs to take notice of how mexico deals with illegal invaders.

  • OhWow

    This is an outrage! Mexico you better become multicultural aka more white people ASAP or we will call you racist! Viva La Whiteza!

  • libertarian1234

    “…….rights workers say criminals associated with Mexico’s Zetas drug cartel have taken control of the freight train route from Tabasco at the southern border to Tamaulipas in the north…..”

    Did everybody notice that little phrase there?

    A criminal group has taken control of a major transportation artery inside of a sovereign nation.

    That in itself is a bigger headline than immigration control.

    Too the cartels have taken over the running of certain prisons, which was revealed by Bill O’Reilly, when they arrested a US citizen who was an ex-service man.

    It is estimated by Mexican investigative journalists that most every politician in Mexico is on cartel payroll, some of them holding high positions in the federal government, and the corruption includes much of the police and more than a few within the military.

    And Napolitano declared that there are AT LEAST 200 points of drug distribution by the cartels in the US. That was two years ago. What about now, because it was alleged they’re increasing in numbers and clout.

    With the world economy continuing to weaken and the cartels realizing booming profits, would it be unreasonable to think that they are becoming an influence and a threat as great as any nation state to this country, with the very real possibility they might take over Mexico?

  • sbuffalonative

    If some Republican wanted to be clever and prove a point, they should introduce a bill using all the language of Mexican immigration policy and wait for Dems and liberals to denounce it. Then reveal it’s the immigration policy of Mexico.

  • bigone4u

    Mexico is a totally corrupt, extremely dangerous country that has arrogantly decided to import itself and take over the southwestern USA. If they are not stopped at the Texas, Arizona, NM, California border, where will they be stopped. Do we set up a new border with a fence in Missouri or Kentucky? My personal observation about Texas is that there is a significant amount of corruption here, where whites have decided that to survive or thrive, they will be as big a liars as the Mexicans. Mexicans corrupt other people as their values become the norm for whites and everyone else.

  • The__Bobster

    Long an advocate for immigrant rights in the US, Mexico is increasingly following its northern neighbor’s footsteps, opting for apprehensions and heightened security along its southern border.

    Following??!! Hell, they’ve been abusing their illegals for decades. And the abuse goes far beyond apprehending them.

  • Spartacus

    Something tells me Mexico doesn’t have a lot of jews…

  • Spartacus

    I think this might be good news. If Mexico actually gets serious about enforcing it’s southern border, that might mean fewer illegals from Guatemala, El Salvador, etc. Making it into the US.

  • jackryanvb

    Mexico sounds better and better. Birth rate from 6 per women in 1960s to 2. Mexican army guards it’s Southern border from Amer-Indian invasion. Even Mexican brutal criminal cartels sound racist, patriotic – terrorize, kill Amer-Indian immigrant invaders.

    • OTOH, it’s full of Mexicans.

      • jackryanvb

        Soon there will be more Mexicans in Chicago than in Mexico.

  • evilsandmich

    Mexico is increasingly following its northern neighbor’s footsteps, opting for apprehensions and heightened security along its southern border.
    I’m guessing that they’re talking about Canada?

  • Paleoconn

    Imagine Mexico teaching US something about sovereignty and border security. How low have sunk?