2016-10-18

Strikingly absent in the American political debate: the issue of the Central American refugee crisis. Journalist Arthur Debruyne traveled along the migration route between Mexico and the United States.

Currently, an exodus is taking place in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala that has not been seen since the civil wars of the 1980s. A mix of gang violence, government repression, corruption and poverty feeds the exodus of hundreds of thousands of displaced people. At the same time, under pressure of the US, Mexico sends migrants back to their homeland more than ever before.

Yet the deportation policy seems to stop only a few. They have no choice but to flee the escalating violence. "A life is worth only $ 200. That is about the rate for a contract murder" says Salvadoran Josué, 28, in Mexico. Amnesty International speaks about 'the most underexposed refugee crisis in the world.'

At the Mexican northern border, many poor migrants end up as drug couriers for the infamous Sinaloa cartel. They have no money for a smuggler, so there is only one option left for them: a five-day trek through the scorching desert of the Mexican state of Sonora and Arizona, with 25 kilos of marijuana in their backpack. Many of them die. Yet in a Mexican town near the border several young migrants wait until the cartel recruits them. This region is the busiest smuggling route for marijuana to the US.

Meanwhile, the US state of Arizona introduced one of the nation's most stringent immigration laws in 2010. From now on everyone can be asked for his/her papers without any reason. The elections on 8 November are vitally important for young latinos. A president like Trump may be deporting their parents and the controversial sheriff Joe Arpaio will sort them out for him.

In the meantime, activists are mobilizing more than ever, they want the latino community to live in dignified conditions. "The American dream turned into a nightmare at a certain moment," says political activist Maricruz Ramirez (50). "But now it has been enough. We no longer want to live in fear, we no longer want to be afraid to come out and to participate in society. We don't want to be afraid to help."
 

Arthur Debruyne

Arthur Debruyne is Belgian independent journalist based in Mexico City.

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