(6 Jun 2012) Illegal immigration from Central America is spiking this year after a five-year decline and despite increased dangers along the 1-thousand-mile trip to the US, according to detentions by Mexican and US authorities.
This year's exodus seems to be fed by skyrocketing violence at home combined with a lack of jobs and the idea that the United States is on the path of economic recovery.
There also seems to be a perception among some migrants that Mexico has become more hospitable.
The Saint Juan Diego Migrant Shelter, just north of Mexico City, is among migrant houses across Mexico struggling to accommodate a flood of weary Central Americans showing up on their doorsteps.
The dozens of haggard travellers who didn't get a spot inside the migrant house on this day had to camp outside.
The number of non-Mexican migrants detained by the US Border Patrol along the border with Mexico has increased 94 percent in the first seven months of the fiscal year that began on 1 October 2012.
About 44,875 non-Mexican migrants, most of them Central Americans, were detained from October through April, compared to 23,108 in the same period in 2011.
Overall, detentions of all illegal immigrants on the border with Mexico have increased 4.5 percent so far this fiscal year to 208,097 apprehensions, according to the Border Patrol.
Still, illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States has dropped to its lowest level in decades, according to a study released in April by the Pew Hispanic Center.
The study found that over the last five years more Mexicans have left the United States than crossed into it.
Mexican authorities are also apprehending more illegal Central American immigrants, with 19,653 arrested between January through March, a 36 percent increase from 2011, according to the National Immigration Institute.
"I'm talking from December to now, especially in the south, Central American immigration has seen an exaggerated spike, in a way that we have not seen in the last 4 or years," said Sister Leticia Gutierrez, of the Scalabrini Sisters religious order and director of a Mexican Catholic bishops' ministry that coordinates 54 migrant shelters across Mexico.
Most Central American migrants hop on freight trains heading to the border with Texas, the shortest distance from Mexico's border with Central America to the United States, and the most dangerous route.
As they head north on the sun-scorched trek, the migrants often have to pay off thieves, immigration officials, police and railroad employees.
They also have to cross through territory controlled by the Zetas gang, which has increasingly targeted migrants in recent years, kidnapping them for ransom or holding them for use as forced labour.
Built for 60 people, the shelter has been receiving up to 300 migrants a day, according to Christian Rojas, who manages the shelter.
He said workers are arranging makeshift beds on the floor and in the patio of the single-room shelter crowded with double-decker bunk beds to get as many people inside as possible.
Left outside, the migrants can be targeted by smugglers or even passing drug traffickers.
Experts say this year's influx could be the result of a perception that the US economy is recovering, while things at home are worsening.
Manuel de Jesus Chavez, 16, from Copan, Honduras, was heading to Texas to join his older brother who crossed illegally last year and has been working at a cattle ranch since then.
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