An Incredibly Violent Journey to the United States

The perils of illegal immigration

By Andrew R. Arthur on October 25, 2018

In a July 12, 2018, post captioned "CBP Rescues Aliens from Smugglers: And other pictures you don't usually see", I detailed the hazards facing those seeking illegal entry to the United States. These include the inhumane measures used by smugglers to transport aliens into and within the United States in violation of law, the predations of the smugglers themselves, and the rugged and forbidding nature of the terrain along the journey to the United States. On October 23, 2018, the White House put out a press release, supported by facts from a major non-governmental organization, that underscores the perils of that journey.

Captioned "By The Numbers: Understanding The Border Crisis Being Driven By Congressional Democrat Backed Loopholes", that press release largely focuses on the recent surge of immigrants (and in particular children and families) across the Southwest border, and the so-called "catch-and-release" loopholes that have fueled that surge.

Included in that press release, however, are some shocking facts. Specifically, it states:

  • Smugglers and traffickers exploit these loopholes to prey on families and children who make the life-threatening journey north to our border.
    • More than two-thirds of those making the journey north become victims of violence along the way, according to a report by Doctors Without Borders.
    • Nearly one-third of women are sexually assaulted along the journey according to that same report.

The report referenced in that press release by Doctors Without Borders (commonly known by its French acronym "MSF") is captioned "Forced to Flee Central America's Northern Triangle, A Neglected Humanitarian Crisis". As its title suggests, it is not the most glowing representation of U.S. immigration policy. It is extremely clear-eyed, however, as it relates to the hazards of illegal travel from Central America through Mexico to the United States.

Among the findings in that report:

—68.3 percent of the migrant and refugee populations entering Mexico reported being victims of violence during their transit toward the United States.

— Nearly one-third of the women surveyed had been sexually abused during their journey.

— MSF patients reported that the perpetrators of violence included members of gangs and other criminal organizations, as well as members of the Mexican security forces responsible for their protection.

The individual facts detailed therein are just as shocking. Specifically, that report states that during the journey through Mexico, "more than half the sample population had experienced recent violence at the time they were interviewed," including 44 percent of those interviewed who stated they had been hit, 40 percent who had been "pushed, grabbed or asphyxiated", and an incredible 7 percent who indicated they had been shot. Some 68.3 percent of migrants from the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA) countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador told MSF that they had been victims of violence during their journeys, including 38.7 percent who reported suffering more than one violent incident, and 11.3 percent who reported more than three such incidents.

That report continued:

In a migration context marked by high vulnerability like the one in Mexico, sexual violence, unwanted sex, and transactional sex in exchange for shelter, protection or for money was mentioned by a significant number of male and female migrants in the surveys. Considering a comprehensive definition of those categories, out of the 429 migrants and refugees that answered [sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV)] questions, 31.4 percent of women and 17.2 percent of men had been sexually abused during their transit through Mexico. Considering only rape and other forms of direct sexual violence, 10.7 percent of women and 4.4 percent of men were affected during their transit through Mexico.

Sexual violence was not the only focus of that report, however. The executive summary notes:

Along the migration route from the NTCA, migrants and refugees are preyed upon by criminal organizations, sometimes with the tacit approval or complicity of national authorities, and subjected to violence and other abuses — abduction, theft, extortion, torture, and rape — that can leave them injured and traumatized.

Corruption is an issue with which the Mexican government has struggled for years. As the U.S. Department of State (DOS) Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Mexico for 2017 states, although the civilian authorities in that country "generally maintained effective control over the security forces", significant human rights issues included "involvement by police, military, and other state officials, sometimes in coordination with criminal organizations, in unlawful killings, disappearances, and torture" as well as "arbitrary arrests and detentions" and "violence against migrants by government officers and organized criminal groups."

In addition to corruption and criminality, that MSF report describes some of the physical hazards that those migrants face during their journey:

Crossing Mexico from the NTCA is a constant challenge for survival which can take a severe toll both physically and psychologically. Migrants and refugees walk for hours in high temperatures, on unsafe and insecure routes to evade authorities. They risk falling from the cargo trains that transport them along the route, or ride on overcrowded trucks without food, water or ventilation for hours.

Each of these are dangers that the Trump administration (and the Obama administration before it, as I have noted previously) is attempting to prevent through its border policies. That these facts are underreported in the United States reflects more on the interests of the media in this country than on the facts on the ground for migrants seeking illegal entry into the United States.