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Migrants prefer ‘safer’ Guadalajara route as they seek the American dream

March 12, 2012

With the Pacific railroad offering the longest but least dangerous route to the United States, the number of migrants passing through Guadalajara has increased by up to 75 percent in the last six months.

To lessen their chances of being assaulted, raped, kidnapped or even killed en route to the U.S. border, increasing numbers of migrants are shunning the shorter but riskier journeys via the Gulf coast or the center of the country, in favor of the Pacific route which brings them through Guadalajara.

Traveling from border to border via the Gulf takes about nine days, while the central route takes 20 days and traveling up the Pacific coast takes over a month.

“This is the most strenuous route of all. It’s almost 35 days straight,” said Luis Enrique Gonzalez Araiza of FM4 Paso Libre, a non-profit organization that provides aid for migrants.

FM4 Paso Libre runs a shelter and kitchen for migrants on Avenida Inglaterra. The number of people coming has risen to about 35 per day from just 20 last September.

Most migrants remain in Guadalajara between 24 and 48 hours before boarding the next train. Few stray far from the tracks and their presence is obvious around Avenida Inglaterra, which runs parallel to the railroad.

They often solicit passersby for food or money but police officers assigned to the area say they have not registered crimes committed by migrants. In fact, the greatest danger the migrants pose is to themselves. Attempting to board the moving trains can be extremely hazardous and serious injuries to migrants, including loss of limbs, are not uncommon.

It is estimated that around 400,000 migrants make the perilous journey through Mexico every year.

According to a report on the abduction of migrants by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), 11,333 migrants were kidnapped while traveling through Mexico between April and September 2010.

Southeast Mexico is the riskiest area, where 67 percent of abductions occurred, followed by the north with 29 percent. Just 2.2 percent of kidnappings took place in the central area which includes Jalisco.

By taking the Pacific coast route to the border, migrants can minimize the risk of being press-ganged into working for drug cartels or killed if they refuse. One of the most notorious cases occurred in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas in 2010, when 72 Central American immigrants were massacred by Los Zetas for being unable to pay ransom fees and refusing to work for the criminal gang.

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