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Why travel with the caravan? To avoid one of the world's most dangerous smugglers.

MEXICO CITY – For many of the migrants now traveling north through Mexico, the decision to join the caravan was…

For many of the migrants now traveling north through Mexico, the decision to join the caravan was not just a response to violence or poverty in Central America. It was an alternative to one of the world’s most expensive and dangerous human trafficking routes.

Every year, when tens of thousands of Americans travel to the United States, they travel through a network of smugglers or coyotes whose prices have increased exponentially over the last decade, as crime groups have become increasingly involved in trade, and border security has been tightened. According to a report from the Department of Homeland Security last year, a trip costing about $ 2000 in 2008 costs an average of $ 9,200 in 201

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Then the caravan arrived: a trip to the border was offered free promising security in numbers and general attention. Unlike the smuggler’s proposal, it would not help migrants to cross the United States.

“The cost of migrants is money and what can happen to your body, and the caravan suddenly lowers the sum of them opportunity costs,” said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based tanker tanker.

The feeling is haunted by the caravan because people described their long-term plans to migrate but their inability to raise enough money for

“I could never afford a smuggler, but I can do this without lending a big sum, “says Esme Castañeda, 30, from Ocotepeque, Honduras, travels with her husband, Francisco, and 5-year-old daughter, Elizabeth.

Throughout the region, many families save for years to pay a smuggler or take out big loans, sometimes losing their homes in the process. These payments theoretically promise a series of safe houses throughout Mexico and three opportunities to cross the US-Mexico border. They also promise typically passage around the internal control points north of the border.

The journey of the caravan will in the meantime end in northern Mexico, without a clear plan for how the majority of immigrants will cross the border. On Thursday, President Trump announced that he would distribute 800 US soldiers to secure the border before the arrival of the caravan, which makes the border crossing even more difficult.

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“These are people who are willing to leave at any time when there is the opportunity to travel safely and when it’s free,” says Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, an expert on migration and human trafficking at George Mason University. “But they know that if you really want to do that, you have to pay a smuggler.”

The caravans have tracked Mexico for several years, but usually in a much smaller number – and with much less attention – than the current group. The organizers said the trip was partly intended as a protest action, to highlight the situation of migrants from Central America. But many would be migrants, it looked like something else: the safest and least expensive way to wander north.

Getting to the border alone was not always so dangerous. About 2008, as Mexico’s then President Felipe Calderón tried to defeat the country’s drug cartels with the military, fragmented some cartels, and in the northeastern Mexico armed groups became increasingly involved in human trafficking. This led to an increase in costs and risks. Border surveillance also led to an increase in smuggling costs, as coyotes had to navigate in an increasingly complex series of enforcement mechanisms.

These changes reduced the number of people who could plausibly make it across the US-Mexico border. Prior to the 1990s, many immigrants could cross the border without paying a smuggler who works in the United States seasonally before returning home to Mexico or Central America.


Central American immigrants are preparing to leave Mapastepec, Mexico, on Thursday. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

“Then there were many alternatives. It was less dangerous, and there were people coming back and forth,” says Selee. “Now it is known of major criminal activity.”

Even after to have paid smugglers, extorted immigrants and the assault along the journey north.

In 2010, 72 migrants of armed men in San Fernando, in northeastern Mexico, were killed after allegedly refusing to pay a remedy. Since then, there have been some such high profile massacres, but the risks remain. Last year, 10 immigrants resided on the back of a trailer in a San Antonio car park when temperatures rose and were caught inside.

Some of the migrants in the caravan had previously traveled with a smuggler but after being rejected they decided that it was not worth the money.

Evin Mata had traveled with a smuggler to the United States a few years ago and eventually betrayed in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. But after being expelled wondered if a smuggler was worth the down payment. Traditionally, migrants rationalized pricing by considering how much they would earn from working in the United States. But Mata believed that $ 10,000 was too much to pay if he would be deported again.

“For me, this is the best option,” he said.


Central American immigrants traveling by caravan go to Pijijiapan, Mexico, on Thursday. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

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