In Mexico, rails are risky crossing for a new wave of Central American migrants

July 16, 2013

Train Tracks by HeraldicosThe Washington Post, 7/15/2013

At a makeshift church shelter beyond the industrial parks north of Mexico City, the train riders wait under a canvas tent, listening for a locomotive horn. They keep their shoes on and their backpacks zipped. The tracks outside run through Mexico’s central highlands and all the way to the Texas border. The shelter is a halfway point for Central Americans on the 1,500-mile trip north, but many do not arrive here in one piece.

Central Americans have been catching freight trains to the U.S. border for years, risking injury or worse for a free ride and a path clear of Mexican government checkpoints. But at a time when illegal immigration to the United States remains near its lowest point in four decades, the number of Central Americans going north has soared, putting new attention on the rail system that takes thousands to the border each year.

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U.S. resuming deportation flights to Mexico

July 12, 2013

IMG_4475Los Angeles Times, 7/11/2013

A federal program that flies deported immigrants back to Mexico resumes Thursday, with 133 Mexicans scheduled to board a plane from El Paso to Mexico City. The Mexican government will transport the deportees to their hometowns.

The repatriation flights, which began in October and ended after two months, are intended to give would-be immigrants a better chance of resettling, rather than becoming victims of violent crime in border towns or trying to illegally cross into the United States again.

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Border state mayors call for immigration reform

January 22, 2013

Border fencePolitico, 1/19/2013

Some of the mayors closest to the debate surrounding illegal immigration say the time is now for a federal response, and they want Congress to act on reform before the moment slips away.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Saturday expressed optimism that Congress will pass comprehensive immigration reform, praising a number of Republicans for demonstrating openness to the issue.

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Safety First in Mexico [Op-ed]

November 28, 2012

The New York Times, 11/28/2012

Mexico’s outgoing president, Felipe Calderón, was never much loved. His election in 2006 was overshadowed by claims of fraud by a leftist challenger. He then struggled with a deep recession brought on by the global financial crisis. And throughout his term he sponsored an army-led “war on drugs,” which has left a death toll variously estimated at between 65,000 and 100,000. Little wonder that most Mexicans are eager to see him leave office on Saturday.

The country’s economy is again growing, with the combination of falling unemployment at home and fewer jobs in the United States bringing a dramatic drop in illegal migration to the north. And thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement, instead of exporting people, Mexico is now a major exporter of cars, televisions, aircraft parts and other manufactured goods.

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In Mexico, rising tension at shelter for migrants

May 7, 2012

The Sacramento Bee, 5/7/12

The travelers, with bloodshot eyes and sleep-wrinkled clothes, press around a man with a map of Mexico taped to the wall. He speaks, and his finger traces various routes north to the border. All roads lead to trouble.

Up here, kidnappers and drug killers. Over there, Mexican army checkpoints. Farther along, a giant desert, with poisonous snakes and deadly heat. Listeners rise on tiptoes to see better. A woman asks for a piece of paper; she wants to remember the name of the Mexican state bordering Arizona. Sonora. Others swap hesitant looks but stay silent, like soldiers being briefed on a terrible foe.

They are migrants, almost all from Central America, and they have endured much to reach this place, a church-run shelter about an hour’s drive north of Mexico City. And they will endure more. The man with the map is a volunteer whose job is to make sure they know how much more.

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Op-ed: 3 things Americans don’t need to worry about

May 2, 2012

Chicago Tribune, Stephen R. Kelly, 5/2/12

The United States is not being overrun by illegal aliens, is not running out of oil or natural gas, and is not being sucked into the vortex of Mexican cartel violence along the border.

In fact, illegal immigration is at a 40-year low, oil production is at an eight-year high and U.S. cities along the Mexican border are among the safest in the nation. All this might come as news to anyone who has closely followed this year’s presidential primaries, whose general theme seemed to be that America is circling the drain. To help lift the national mood, here are three things you can remove from your worry list.

Virtually all the GOP presidential candidates have talked about illegal immigration in starkly negative terms, with the presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney, proposing further crackdowns so undocumented immigrants “self deport.” But the numbers suggest this rhetoric has been overtaken by events.

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Op-ed: Central Americans determined to trek north to U.S.

April 29, 2012

The Washington Times, Guy Taylor, 4/29/12

About 200 impoverished and undocumented migrants recently packed into a small building in this ramshackle town 20 miles north of Mexico City.

Nearly all were from Honduras and headed for the U.S. border. Almost none spoke a word in the shelter’s dark main room, where the only thing thicker than the smell of unwashed clothes was a sense of fear. “Yeah, I’m scared,” said Victor Caseres, 26, who had traveled 750 miles by hopping freight trains to arrive at the shelter, one of more than a dozen run by the Catholic Church in Mexico to provide refuge for migrants.

“Everything’s been all right so far, but going forward, I’m afraid. Sometimes criminal guys hop on the train, and they’ll rob you or kill you.” Migrants in search of jobs in the U.S. face a gantlet of life-or-death risks in their treks across Mexico from its southern border: Many fall prey to extortion, kidnapping, rape and killing by crooked police and criminal gangs.

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More kids crossing Mexico border alone

April 29, 2012

San Francisco Chronicle / Associated Press, 4/29/12

Texas – An unprecedented surge of children caught trudging through southern Texas scrublands or crossing at border ports of entry without their families has sent government and nonprofit agencies scrambling to expand their shelter, legal representation and reunification services. On any given day this year, the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement has been caring for more than 2,100 unaccompanied child immigrants.

The influx came to light recently when 100 kids were taken to Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio for temporary housing. It was the first time the government has turned to the Defense Department – in all, 200 boys and girls younger than 18 stay in a base dormitory.

While the issue of unaccompanied minors arriving in the United States isn’t new, the scale of the recent increase is. From October through March, 5,252 kids landed in U.S. custody without a parent or guardian – a 93 percent increase from the same period the previous year, according to data released by the Department of Health and Human Services. In March alone, 1,390 kids arrived.

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The Dream Deferred

April 27, 2012

Americas Quarterly, 4/26/2012
Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco

In this AQ feature article by Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco, the issue of U.S.-born children of immigrants and newcomers who arrive at an early age is explored. It is argued that these individuals have deep roots in their communities and that “regardless of whether their parents “have papers” or not, these children and youth attend U.S. schools, learn English and develop an emerging American identity. But for children from households lacking documentation, their or their parents’ status hangs over their daily lives and future.”

The author contends that “the fear of apprehension and deportation, for themselves or their parents, is ever-present and immensely damaging.” The current rhetoric surrounding immigration in the United States, however, does not longer reflect the recent shifts in migration flows. Although the debate continue to be focused on “illegal immigration,” the truth is that whereas the unauthorized population grew from under 1 million in 1980 to nearly 12 million in 2000, the trend has now reversed. Suárez-Orozco argues that this leaves the political rhetoric on both sides of the spectrum disconnected from reality. Suárez-Orozco adds:

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Supreme Court to hear arguments over Ariz. immigration law

April 25, 2012

USA Today, 4/25/12

Crowds began arriving early at the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday morning as justices prepared to consider the fate of what many consider the toughest state immigration law in the country.

Arizona Senate Bill 1070 has become a flashpoint for the debate over how to enforce immigration in the U.S. and has served as a blueprint for five other states that adopted similar laws the following year. The Arizona Legislature passed the bill in 2010, and it was signed into law by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010.

Sponsors said the law was necessary because the federal government has failed to control the influx of illegal immigrants into the country, forcing states such as Arizona to grapple with the security concerns and high costs of educating and caring for illegal immigrants. They said the law simply empowered police and state officials to help enforce federal immigration laws.

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