The Vast Majority of Unauthorized Migrants Don't Make It

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One of the hardest truths I learned when I tried to retrace the route of a Guatemalan migrant into the U.S. was that the vast majority of people who try to migrate to the U.S. don't make it.  A National Geographic film "Wetback: The Undocumented Documentary" puts out the following statistic

Of the more than 3,000 Latin Americans who embark upon this journey every day, less than 300 make it to their destination. 

Much of the anecdotal evidence I have collected confirms this and it makes sense systemically, too. You only hear from the migrants that make into into the U.S.  You rarely hear from those that died, ended their journey somewhere else, or turned back.

I bring this up, now, because Renata Avila, a human rights lawyer and one of my favorite Guatemalan activists, tweeted me this link a few days ago:

She links to a Prensa Libre article, which is Guatemala's leading newspaper.  For those that don't read Spanish, it tells the story of a Guatemalan migrant Feliciano Tagual, who died along with over 100 other migrants in the massacre in Tamaulipas, Mexico.  Tagual had seven daughters and was unable to find steady work so he decided to take the trip.  The motives for the Tamaulipas massacre are still unclear, but it's reports are suggesting it had something to do with the drug trade.  

The story of Tagual is one of the few we know, but there are thousands of others that die, stop, or turn back every day.  The fact that migrants continue to attempt the trip into the U.S. despite having a 1 in 10 chance of making it is one of the best illustrations of the fact that no amount of enforcement is ever going to stop unauthorized migration.  Only when we live in a world where people migrate out of want, not out of need, will this ever stop.  In the meantime we have to do the best that we can be as humane and as welcoming towards migrants as we possibly can.  Migrants are the heroes of poor communities in Latin America and it is only by empowering them, not oppressing them, that the entire region will come out ahead.

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This page contains a single entry by kyledeb published on April 18, 2011 4:02 PM.

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