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Mexican migration road, a nightmare for migrants

Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report
Jennifer Clark speaking on the migrant situation on April 10 at the University of Oklahoma.
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NORMAN, Okla. – Wherever migrants are coming from, it is not easy to make their way to the U.S., especially when one is a refugee coming from Somalia or even an illegal immigrant from Central America.

Jennifer Clark, a professor of Political Science and chair of Women’s Studies at South Texas College talked about the perilous life of the migrants coming from Central America through Mexico at the Symposium on “Migrants in the U.S.: Racism and Social Change” organized by the University of Oklahoma’s Humanities Forum on Monday.

In 2015, approximately 3.4 million Central Americans resided in the United States, representing 8 percent of the 43.3 million U.S. immigrants. An overwhelming majority of migrants coming from Central America are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Clark said the road used by migrants from Central America along the eastern side of Mexico is very dangerous and difficult due to the presence of gangs and criminal organizations, corruptions and a wall between the Mexico and U.S. border

“It is one of the most dangerous roads in Mexico,” Clark said.

However, after a peak of immigrants coming through the Mexican border in 2015, the increasing effort of the U.S. and Mexican governments have drastically reduced Latino's immigrations. Former President Obama asked $3.7 billion from congress for reinforcing immigration control in 2014.

Gang violence push people to flee

Most of the migrants are leaving in their countries because of corruption, gang violence and poverty due to economic crises after several years of civil wars. Clark also said it has been observed since 2013, an increase of unaccompanied minors migrating from Central America to the U.S.

Honduras has the highest homicide rate in the world with 90.4 homicides per 100,000 population, El Salvador arrived second with 70 homicides per 100,000 population. And the highest homicide rate for a city goes to San Pedro Sula in Honduras with up to 140 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. The international average is only of 6.2.

“They have no option,” Clark said.

Clark also said the increase of gang violence took place when the U.S. started to deport Central American felon migrants to their country of origins. Then eventually these skilled criminals created more sophisticated and international criminal organizations that didn’t exist previously in countries such as Guatemala and Honduras. Clark added that no real measures have been able to stop the influence of the gangs.

“They now conduct their operation from prison,” Clark said, adding there are about 25,000 gang members in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador combined.

Mexican migration eastern road, a nightmare for migrants

Clark said up to 10 percent of the 500,000 migrants leaving Central America through Mexico each year are disappearing due mostly to organized crimes. However, Clark was not able to say why so many disappeared and if they were forced or not.

“The dynamics are pretty complex,” Clark said.

Then according to Clark’s study, the main abuses reported by migrants through their travel in Mexico were extortion, robbery, threat, physical abuses and kidnapping. The aggressors were principally gangs, authorities and coyotes or polleros.

The safest way for a migrant to get through the Mexican nightmare is to pay a smuggler from $2,000 to $15,000, the more the migrant pays, the greater chance he has of reaching the U.S. The smugglers will provide transportation, corrupt authorities and pay a fee to the gangs.

“Basically, smugglers are seen has social workers,” Clark said, adding recent measures to reduce immigration in the U.S. and Mexico have forced migrants to take more risks.

In addition, Clark said for migrants who don’t have the budget to pay their trip, they often get stuck in the city of Tapachula in Mexico close to the border of Guatemala trying to get enough money to continue their trip. Unfortunately for them, they are often exploited and abused by the local population.

According to the U.S. Customs and Border and protection, the number of illegal immigrants arrested has dropped by 64 percent to only 12.5 in March 2017 in comparison to March 2016. The lowest numbers over 17 years.

Janet Ward, the inaugural faculty director of the OU Humanities Forum said even if the symposium was organized before the result of the U.S. presidential election, the election of Trump has accented the need to know more about migrants’ situations. She added the forum supports innovative, interdisciplinary humanities research that seeks to understand and transform our world.

For more information go on OU Humanities Forum’s website.

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Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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