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A Dangerous Route North

TECATE, Mexico -- The migrant shelter named in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe is spotless, though the men who come are dusty. Their clothes are streaked with sweat, their hands and faces burned by sun, scratched with thorns. They look as if they have been wandering the desert.

The free meal they eat is simple but wholesome. The nuns serve beans, cactus, boiled eggs. The men take second and third helpings. The nuns console their guests, but it is not easy.

“You see them very sad, for they have with no illusions left, and I believe they feel like losers,” said Sister Maria Elena. The men are ashamed because they have failed.

A few years ago, migrants heading north would stop at the shelter in Tecate, where the big Mexican brewery is, for a night or two before they crossed illegally into the United States. They were hopeful, and they often made it across La Linea, the line.

Now most men who stay at the shelter have either been caught by the U.S. Border Patrol, processed and “voluntarily returned” to Tecate, or they have come back on their own. Mexican migrants say it is much harder to cross illegally now, with the border better secured by fences, lights and agents.

“I don’t know how, but when you jump the wall, maybe they are watching you, because they chase you and they capture you,” said Jorge Ramirez, who worked on tomato farms and shrimp boats in his native state of Nayarit before coming here. He says he has been apprehended seven times trying to go north. “Some times you can hide and you fool them, but not always, because you also get caught a lot.”

In the video, Roberto Martinez explains the crossing is more dangerous now because the workers share routes with drug smugglers. “If I see narcos out on the trail I go back or I change my way,” Martinez says, “I don’t want to see them or get close to them.”

Asked about rumors that drug smugglers and human traffickers are fighting over routes north, Martinez points to the camera and says, “If that video gets to a drug dealer, what I am saying? That could mean my life, you know. I could count my days. That is why even journalists don’t investigate the drugs dealers.”

By William Booth and Travis Fox  |  June 26, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
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We need to make it deadly for the drug smugglers - not more "difficult". As for the illegals who try again and again - hopefully they will fail again and again until they decide it isn't worth the effort.

Posted by: Utahreb | June 26, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

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