Sun, Aug 31, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Mexico operations thwart child, family immigrants

STEMMING THE TIDE:Concerted efforts by officials have diminished the number of migrants from Central America in concert with a US information campaign

AP, CHAHUITES, Mexico

Mexico is making a big effort to stop the flow of Central Americans trying to reach the US and has dramatically reduced the number of child migrants, but it is unclear for how long Mexican federal officials will keep up the raids.

A Mexican federal police officer said his group was told that they would be stationed in southern Mexico for six months. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to talk to reporters.

Convoys of federal police and immigration service employees in southern Mexico have been scouring the tracks of the infamous freight train known as La Bestia, or “The Beast,” that has long carried crowds of migrants on its route north. They have also set up roadblocks, checking the documents of passengers on interstate buses.

Journalists witnessed dozens of federal police and Mexican immigration agents storming the train as it made an unscheduled stop after midnight on Friday.

“We are federal agents. Give up. You are surrounded. Come down carefully,” the lawmen shouted to huddled, stunned migrants.

Fewer than 15 were detained on a train that once carried 600 to 1,000 migrants at a time.

US and Mexican officials say they are noticing the same reduction all along the route.

US POSITION

The roundups follow US requests for help from Mexico, as well as Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador earlier this summer when the number of unaccompanied minors turning themselves into the US Border Patrol reached what US President Barack Obama called an “urgent humanitarian crisis.”

On Aug. 7, the US Department of Homeland Security released data showing that the number of unaccompanied children and children traveling with a parent arrested along the southwest border of the US in July was about 13,000, half what it had been in June.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the trend appeared to be continuing during the first week of this month, and Obama said on Thursday that numbers for the whole month would show a further decline.

“We’re seeing a significant downward trend in terms of these unaccompanied children,” Obama said in a news conference.

With the new crackdown, the migrants who once circulated openly in shelters and boarded the cars as they were being attached to the locomotive are forced to hide in the woods, where criminals lurk. There are few women and no children, because the journey now requires jumping onto a moving train.

Some of the Central American men say that instead of trying to cross into the US, they will now stay and look for work in Mexico. Many families have apparently decided not to attempt the journey through Mexico at all, since news of the raids and checkpoints — combined with stepped up efforts in the US and among Central American governments — reached their communities, said Carlos Solis, the manager of a shelter in Arriaga. He said the city, once bustling with migrants waiting to board the train, emptied out almost overnight.

“They are also going after the coyotes, so it is increasing the cost of the trip and making them move through less visible areas,” Solis said, referring to the smugglers paid to get migrants to the US border.

HUMAN WAVE

It is a far cry from the wave of migration that pressed toward the US earlier this year, spurred on by a surge in violence in several Central American countries and news that women and children who reached the US were being let go inside the country with orders to return for immigration hearings because family shelter space had filled up.

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