En Route to U.S.: Central American Migrants, on Foot
PORTLAND, Ore. – 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 or the beast.
But when journalist Joseph Sorrentino investigated, he found refugees from Central America now walking north, including a teenager he spoke with from El Salvador.
"And I asked him why,” Sorrentino relates. “He said, 'I need to find work, my mother has cancer and I need to get a job.'”
“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 Obama administration to seal the border, but Sorrentino says that's impossible.
In the meantime, he points out that the migrants are more vulnerable on foot, and that many report being raped or robbed. His article is online now, and in the June edition of In These Times.
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,” he relates. “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 for which they don't qualify.
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.
"Contrary to what some politicians are put forth, the overwhelming majority are not any kind of drug dealers, they're not drug mules. They're fleeing incredibly violent countries and they're coming to work."
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. Dan