Statistics from the US Border Patrol are available which show the apprehensions of unaccompanied minors from El Salvador who cross the US southwestern border. The statistics show that apprehensions dropped significantly from fiscal year 2014 (Oct. 2013-Sept. 2014) to the most recent fiscal year ended September 30, 2015:
In addition, there were 10,872 families from El Salvador detained in fiscal 2015, down from 14,883 the year before.
Do the decreasing number of apprehensions at the US border mean that fewer Salvadorans are trying to make it north to the US fleeing the endemic violence and mayhem caused by gangs in poor communities? Almost certainly not. Instead, the numbers reflect the increasing difficulty for migrants to make the journey north through Mexico and a US-funded crackdown by Mexican authorities.
According to Guatemalan migration authorities, there has been a 33% increase in the number of Central Americans deported by land from Mexico across the Guatemalan border compared to the same period one year ago. Within that group, Salvadoran migration authorities say there was a 51% increase in deportations of Salvadorans from Mexico in January through August of this year compared to the prior year. (The statistics do not indicate the ages of those deported).
Sonia Nazario, the author of “Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite With His Mother.” recently returned to the migrants' trail through Mexico in an op-ed in the New York Times titled The Refugees at Our Door. She reports:
“The U.S. government is sponsoring the hunting of migrants in Mexico to prevent them from reaching the U.S.,” says Christopher Galeano, who spent last summer researching what’s happening in Mexico for human rights groups there. “It is forcing them to go back to El Salvador, Honduras, to their deaths.”
I went to Mexico last month to see the effects of the crackdown against migrants, who are being hunted down on a scale never seen before and sent back to countries where gangs and drug traffickers have taken control of whole sections of territory. More than a decade ago, I rode on top of seven freight trains up the length of Mexico with child migrants to chronicle hellish experiences at the hands of gangs, bandits and corrupt cops who preyed on youngsters as they journeyed north. Compared with today, that trip was child’s play.Later on:
Although President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico said when he announced the so-called Southern Border Plan that it was to “protect the human rights of migrants as they pass through Mexico,” the opposite has happened. By the Mexican government’s own accounting, 72,000 migrants have been rescued from kidnappers in recent years. They are often tortured and held for ransom. The survivors tell of being enslaved working in marijuana fields or forced into prostitution. Many are killed — sometimes they have organs harvested — in what’s become an invisible, silent slaughter. The government push has been interpreted as open season on migrants who have become prey to an exploding number of criminals and the police who rob, rape, beat and kill them.
The crackdown has forced migrants to travel in ways that are harder, take longer, are more isolated and have fewer support mechanisms. New measures have made riding on top of freight trains north, a preferred method for anyone who cannot afford a $10,000 smuggler fee, incredibly difficult. In Tierra Blanca, Veracruz and elsewhere, tall concrete walls topped with concertina wire have been constructed to thwart migrants. In Apizaco, the Lechería train station outside Mexico City and elsewhere, chest-high concrete pillars, or rocks, have been installed on both sides of the tracks so migrants cannot run alongside moving trains and board them.Read Nazario's entire opinion piece here.
My conversations in El Salvador with Salvadorans most at risk of gang threats and extortion reveal that the path to the US is an option always thought about and often acted upon. As the killings reach unprecedented levels, more Salvadorans are going to flee, not fewer, no matter how many public service announcements are aired in El Salvador warning them not to try to enter the US. The US approach to using Mexico to do its border enforcement is simply inhumane.