Migrants fall for false promises

Written by Angela Korchurga in the Albuquerque Journal. She was recently in Guatemala talking with families about why so many believe now is the time to migrate and looking into why smuggling networks are taking large groups to the remote Antelope Wells border.

Vendors at an open-air market in San Martin Jilotepeque, Guatemala, prepare to close their stands after a busy day.  From the Albuquerque Journal

Vendors at an open-air market in San Martin Jilotepeque, Guatemala, prepare to close their stands after a busy day. From the Albuquerque Journal

CIENEGA GRANDE, Guatemala – Martina Alvarez sat at a wooden table in her small tortilla shop and lamented the exodus of families from Guatemala headed for the United States, including some of her own relatives.

“They left eight days ago,” Alvarez said. “They said they are going to turn themselves in to immigration authorities there, to ask for help.”

One of those asking for asylum is a young mother who departed with her 5-year-old boy.

Deep poverty and violence – including extortion by street gangs, impunity and government corruption – are real factors influencing Guatemalans to migrate.

But these days there is another driving force: smugglers actively promoting their services with the promise that parents who make it across the border will be allowed to stay in the U.S.

New Mexico’s Bootheel has become one of the newest routes used by coyotes taking people to the U.S. border. Since Oct. 27, large groups totaling more than 5,370 people have arrived in Antelope Wells. Most are parents with children, or minors traveling alone from Guatemala, according to Border Patrol.

“Nobody leaves because they think it’s going to be easy,” said Luis Argueta, a Guatemalan filmmaker who has produced a trilogy of documentaries exploring migration issues.

Spurred by smugglers, Guatemalans who may have contemplated leaving for the U.S. see this as their moment.

“It is a fact if you arrive at the border with an underage child your chances of being admitted temporarily are very high,” Argueta said. Continue Reading