As Mexicans Flee Violence, Many Come to the U.S.

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on March 25, 2011

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visited the Mexican border on Thursday, offering assurances that it remains open for business and that the murderous violence now commonplace among rival drug trafficking organizations has not crossed into the United States.

But tens of thousands of Mexicans terrorized by the violence and by threats from the traffickers are coming north, according to a report by the Geneva, Switzerland-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, which cites research by a Mexican organization.

"Surveys conducted by a research centre in Ciudad Juarez in Chihuahua estimated that around 230,000 people had fled their homes" in Juarez , the IDMC says on its website. According to the survey's findings, roughly half of them had crossed the border into the United States, with an estimated 115,000 people left internally displaced.

The IDMC notes that last year the trafficking organization known as Los Zetas issued a blunt warning to Ciudad Mier, which sits astride a smuggling route in the border state of Tamaulipas. The Zetas vowed that residents would be killed unless they moved out. "As a result, as many as 400 people fled to the nearby town of Ciudad Miguel Aleman," says the IDMC.

The Mexico City daily El Universal today added its own reporting to an article about the IDMC report. It quotes a Mexican researcher who said that in Juarez, "It is common to see signs on the streets that say, 'If you want to move to El Paso, we will help you.'"

The flight is not confined to residents of Chihuahua and Tamaulipas. El Universal reports that "upper class families have fled Tijuana," seeking safety in such California communities such as Chula Vista, La Jolla, and San Diego.