Reporter Documents U.S. Immigration Policy Results
RICHMOND, Va. - A crackdown in Mexico backed by the United States is making Central American refugees more vulnerable and not keeping them from trying to come north.
An investigation in the magazine "In These Times" says when large numbers of Central American children showed up in the U.S. last summer, Washington pressured Mexico. Mexico then took steps to stop migrants from riding a train north nicknamed "La Bestia," the beast.
But when freelance journalist and photographer Joseph Sorrentino investigated, he found refugees from Central America now walking north including a teenager he spoke with from El Salvador.
"I asked him why and he said, 'I need to find work, my mother has cancer and I need to get a job,'" says Sorrentino. "So, a 16-year-old kid is walking for days by himself to get to the United States, to get a job to help his mother."
Critics are pressing the administration to seal the border, but Sorrentino says that's impossible. In the meantime, he points out the migrants are more vulnerable on foot and many report being raped or robbed.
According to Sorrentino, these refugees face nightmarish conditions. He says they're viciously abused and violated on the road, especially the women and girls.
"Women, 60 to 70 percent of them, will be raped along the way," says Sorrentino. "Many of them get injections of birth controls because they know they have a great chance of being raped."
Last summer, critics of the Obama administration said underage migrants were coming to the U.S. to get amnesty they don't qualify for.
But Sorrentino says the refugees he talked with are under no illusions about the legal threats they'd be under in the U.S. Many told him they've lived here before, some for years. But they're fleeing what he calls "unimaginable levels of violence" in countries with some of the highest murder rates in the world.
"Until the Central American countries and Mexico, in conjunction with the United States, address the extreme poverty, extreme violence and corruption, bottom line is people are literally walking most of the way to the United States border."
His article is online and in the June edition of "In These Times."