Like 'wolves,' merciless gangs prey on migrants in Mexico

Matamoros don bartletti

MEXICO CITY -- Along Mexico's southern border region with Guatemala, ruthless criminals hunt for migrants from Central America like a "pack of wolves." Migrants victimized by gangs often end up in mass graves, while their survivors to the north or south anxiously await their arrival, or at least an identification of their dead.

On the other side of the country, on Mexico's northern border with Texas, deportees ejected across the border from the United States become automatic targets for gangs who often kidnap, torture and kill them.

"They are like the wolves and we're the sheep," said one man deported from Huntington Beach.

Two articles this week in The Times highlight the horrific realities in Mexico for the migrants who pass through the country on their way to the United States, as well as for those who are deported from there.

In the southern city of Tapachula, near the border with Guatemala in the state of Chiapas, Times Mexico City bureau chief Tracy Wilkinson meets Argentine forensic experts as they work to identify remains found in a mass grave. The dead are presumably migrants from Honduras, El Salvador or Guatemala, but who will ever fully know?

"Not knowing is the worst," one investigator said. "I've seen it across countries and cultures."

Mexico's government has estimated that 10,000 migrants remain unaccounted for on their journey across the country. The story notes that more young women are attempting the crossing into Mexico over the last year, and then become targets for sexual assault.

Read the entire story here.

In the northern border city of Matamoros, in Tamaulipas state, Times U.S.-Mexico border correspondent Richard Marosi meets a group of illegal immigrants recently deported to Mexico in the city across from Brownsville, Texas.

The migrants are repatriated in a controversial U.S. program that seeks to reduce the chances that they will try to cross again by sending them back into an unfamiliar region. As World Now reported a year ago, the practice puts them squarely in harm's way, with often fatal results.

Upon crossing back into Mexico, authorities warn them: "They will try to get phone numbers of your relatives in the U.S. for ransoms."

The warning offers little protection; migrants are promptly targeted by gangs. They are snatched up and robbed, extorted or killed. Some are forcibly recruited into the gangs.

"Deporting people here is like sending them into a trap … to be hunted down," a priest in Matamoros said.

Marosi relates how he is approached by a suspected gang member while reporting his story. The man tells the journalist that migrants have "nothing to fear" and that he is there to "protect" them.

Read the entire story here.

RELATED:

U.S. steps up deportation efforts for criminal immigrants

Does U.S. deportation program put migrants in harm's way?

Mexico says leader in kidnapping, killing of 72 migrants arrested

-- Daniel Hernandez

Photo: Deportees carry personal items in boxes provided by U.S. authorities and file across the Gateway International Bridge over the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas, to Matamoros, Mexico. They will soon be warned by Grupo Beta, the Mexican migrant safety force, about dangers they are about to face. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

 
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