Monday, May 20, 2013

AZMEX I3 20-5-13

AZMEX I3 20 MAY 2013

Note: TEXMEX, but same for AZ.

May 20, 10:34 AM EDT

Cartel towns pose challenge for immigration reform
Associated Press

MATAMOROS, Mexico (AP) -- Just across the Rio Grande from
Brownsville, Texas, stands a dormitory-style shelter filled with
people recently deported from the U.S. and other migrants waiting to
cross the border.

The long rows of bunk beds offer immigrants a place to rest on their
long journey. But the shelter is no safe haven in a town controlled
by the Gulf cartel. Armed men once showed up and took away 15 men,
who were probably put to work as gunmen, lookouts or human mules
hauling bales of marijuana into the United States.

As Congress takes up immigration reform, lawmakers may have to
confront the reality of this place and others like it, where people
say the current system of immigration enforcement and deportation
produces a constant flow of people north and south that provides the
cartel with a vulnerable labor pool and steady source of revenue.

"This vicious circle favors organized crime because the migrant is
going to pay" for safe passage, said the Rev. Francisco Gallardo, who
oversees immigrant-assistance efforts for the Matamoros Catholic

If Congress sends more resources to the border, the government will
also need to account for shifting patterns in immigrant arrests.

The cartel controls who crosses the border and profits from each
immigrant by taxing human smugglers. At the shelter, the cartel
threat was so alarming that shelter administrators began encouraging
immigrants to go into the streets during the day, thinking they would
be harder to round up than at the shelter.

There have been record numbers of deportations in recent years and
tens of thousands landed in Tamaulipas already this year, the state
that borders Texas from Matamoros to Nuevo Laredo. Arizona is often
singled out as the busiest border crossing for immigrants entering
the U.S., but more and more migrants are being caught in the
southernmost tip of Texas, in the Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley

Apprehension statistics are imperfect measures because they only
capture a fraction of the real flow, but the arrest numbers are
definitely shifting.

Arrests in the Tucson, Ariz., sector dropped 3 percent last year,
while Rio Grande Valley arrests rose 65 percent. In March alone, the
Border Patrol made more than 16,000 immigrant arrests in the Rio
Grande Valley sector, a 67 percent increase from the same month last
year, according to the agency.

Immigrant deaths are also up. The sector reported last month that
about 70 bodies were found in the first six months of the fiscal
year, more than twice as many as the previous year.

The makeup of the immigrants apprehended here is changing, too,
driven by people flowing out of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
The Border Patrol made 94,532 arrests of non-Mexican immigrants along
the Southwest border last year, more than double the year before. And
nearly half of those came in the Rio Grande Valley sector.

The Border Patrol is responding by redirecting personnel, including
sending most new graduates from its academy to the Rio Grande Valley,
according to senior Border Patrol officials.

When immigrants from Central America and Mexico arrive in Matamoros
ahead of their trip to America, they are met by smugglers who have to
pay the cartel tax for every person they take across the border.

Attempts to cross alone are met with violence. Some immigrants are
kidnapped and their families extorted by the organization.

Reported murders in Tamaulipas, the state that borders Texas from
Matamoros to Nuevo Laredo, increased more than 250 percent in the
past four years, according to the Mexican government. Official
statistics are generally thought to undercount the real toll.
Soldiers recently killed six gunmen in a clash in Matamoros.

And yet, even with the high-degree of danger for immigrants crossing
this part of the border, they keep coming.

Central American migrants continue to use the route up the Gulf Coast
side of Mexico and through Tamaulipas because it's the shortest to
the U.S., said Rodolfo Casillas Ramirez, a professor at Facultad
Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales in Mexico City. The smugglers
choose the route, and even if immigrants have heard about the
violence in Tamaulipas, "they trust that the premium they've paid
includes the right of passage," he said.

They continue to leave their home countries for economic reasons.
Although the U.S. economy has provided fewer jobs for immigrants
during the Great Recession and a long, slow recovery, opportunities
south of the border have been even more limited, Casillas said.

That's why the Rev. Alejandro Solalinde, a Roman Catholic priest who
founded a shelter for immigrants in the southern Mexican state of
Oaxaca, said the answer is in regional development, not increased
border security.

"This situation has grown because ultimately the migrants are
merchandise and organized crime profits in volume," he said during a
recent visit to Matamoros.

Rep. Filemon Vela, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee
whose district includes Brownsville, said the immigration-reform
debate has so far left out discussion of the security and economic
development in Mexico.

"The incentive for people to cross over illegally from Mexico will
never subside until these individuals feel safe and until they are
able to feed themselves and their families," Vela said.

At the 150-bed shelter, more than half of the immigrants have just
been deported from the U.S., Gallardo said. The others are immigrants
preparing to cross. He said shelter workers constantly chase out
infiltrators who are paid by smugglers to recruit inside.

At Solalinde's shelter in southern Mexico, threats from organized
crime forced them to bring in four state police officers and four
federal ones, who have lived at his shelter for the past year as
protection. Solalinde now travels with bodyguards after having fled
Mexico for a couple of months last year following threats.

One immigrant at the Matamoros shelter was a 48-year-old man who
would only give his name as "Gordo" because he feared for his safety.
He said he had arrived two days earlier after traveling from Copan,
Honduras. Gordo said he had lived in Los Angeles for 10 years but had
been in Honduras for the past four. He was trying to make it back to
California, where he has a 15-year-old daughter.

Asked about his prospects for successfully crossing the river, he
said: "It's difficult, not so much for the Border Patrol" but for the


Associated Press Writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to
this report.

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