Central Americans flock to U.S. through Mexico
TULTITLAN, Mexico – Deported from the U.S. after years working construction in New Jersey, Hector Augusto Lopez decided to rebuild his life in his hometown in eastern Honduras.
He found a steady job at a shoe store in Catacamas. Then, in March, he watched horrified as robbers shot three customers to death before his eyes. Soon after, he decided to make the hard and dangerous journey north again.
“In Honduras there is a lot of violence, a lot of robberies and a lot of poverty,” Lopez, 28, said as he waited to jump a cargo train just outside Mexico City on a recent afternoon. “There is no future there.”
Half a block away, dozens more U.S.-bound Central American migrants waited outside an overflowing one-story, crammed shelter, napping on pieces of cardboard, wrapping themselves in garbage bags against the cold and trading stories about their journeys north.
While the number of Mexicans heading to the U.S. has dropped dramatically, a surge of Central American migrants is making the 1,000-mile northbound journey this year, fueled in large part by the rising violence brought by the spread of Mexican drug cartels. Other factors, experts say, are an easing in migration enforcement by Mexican authorities, and a false perception that Mexican criminal gangs are not preying on migrants as much as they had been.
Central American migration remains small compared to the numbers of Mexicans still headed north, but their steeply rising numbers speak starkly to the violence and poverty at home. The perils of the journey have pushed smuggling fees as high as $7,000, as much as double the earlier rates, for a trip that takes weeks, or even months for those delayed by robberies, health problems or difficulties finding transportation.