Migrants’ journey north from Central America through Mexico to the United States, always perilous and unpredictable, has gotten several new obstacles in recent years. These are the result of a transformation in the region’s criminal organizations. In Mexico what were small, family-run DTOs have morphed into large, criminal operations with military prowess and a large portfolio of criminal activities, including that of kidnapping for ransom. At the same, street gangs have proliferated in the region, providing "eyes and ears" for these larger criminal organizations to seize large numbers of migrants en route.This is all wrapped up in the comments that former President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, made to the Economist last week, lamenting that the drug business is impossible to deal with as long as there is a huge market in the US for drugs that are not legal, but the US does allow the legal selling of guns and ammunition to people who use them in the drug violence. The US has created a huge problem, and Latin Americans are bearing the brunt of it.
But there is more trouble in the US for many of these migrants--getting to the US is not the end of their woes. My SDSU colleague, Sheldon Zhang, has just completed a study funded by the National Institute of Justice in which he found that "[n]early a third of unauthorized migrant workers in San Diego County have been victims of labor trafficking and more than half have experienced other labor abuses."