Most Dangerous Journey: What Central American Migrants Face When They Try to Cross the Border

A group of 33 Central American womeA group of 33 Central American women traveling in a caravan across Mexico in search of migrant relatives (Photo Credit: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

A group of 33 Central American women traveling in a caravan across Mexico in search of migrant relatives (Photo Credit: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images).

By Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General

The scrub-lands and desert in Mexico’s northern state of Coahuila are the last stop for Central American migrants before attempting to cross the border into the USA.

By the time they reach Saltillo, Coahuila’s capital, they have made a perilous journey of nearly 2,000 kilometers. Along the way, many of these men, women and children suffer assaults, robbery and abduction by criminal gangs. There are also reports of extortion and ill-treatment by police and immigration officials. Tragically, some migrants are killed before they even get this far.

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‘You May Say That We are DREAMers…’

Maryland Dream Act

‘You may say that we are DREAMers…’ But, as the vote on Question 4 of the Maryland ballot demonstrated, we are definitely not the only ones! You helped successfully defend the Maryland DREAM Act last night as Marylanders voted 58% to 42% in favor of the act.

The Maryland DREAM Act is legislation that would afford students from Maryland, who have been state high school students, and whose parents file state taxes, the opportunity to pay in-state tuition rates for their higher education. (For more information regarding the Maryland DREAM Act, check out our Maryland DREAM Act one-pager and our infographic. 

This is an important victory for the students and families who will be affected, for DREAMers across the country and for human rights supporters fighting for immigrants’ rights and the right to education. It’s important for another reason too. Ballot referendums are a critical barometer of public opinion, and an indication of how ready U.S citizens and residents are ready for political change on the issue in question. The results in Maryland are pretty clear – voters strongly support common sense measures that recognize the contributions that our talented young people, regardless of immigration status, are making to the nation.

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A Big Chance for Immigrant Students in Maryland?

On November 6, 2012, Maryland residents will vote on a ballot initiative that will allow undocumented students who have lived in Maryland, whose parents have paid taxes in Maryland, and who meet some other conditions, to pay in-state tuition fees for their higher education.

The Maryland DREAM Act, if it is able to come into force, would enable many DREAMers to attend state universities that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive. At a time when many states in the U.S. were passing anti-immigrant legislation (adding to a climate of hostility to migrants, those perceived to be migrants, and Native Americans), Maryland passed legislation in April 2011 that realized the right to equal access to education for a significant number of students.

Now, the Maryland Dream Act is in jeopardy. Let’s defend the right to education, and the Maryland DREAM Act! On November 6th, Vote ‘Yes!’ on Question 4 on the ballot. Help spread the word by sharing this graphic widely:

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Obama to DREAMers: You Can Stay…For Now

Immigration Activists Demonstrate In Los Angeles

Immigrant students demonstrate for an end to deportations on June 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

“They are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper,” President Obama stated today, in confirming that an order had been issued permitting some 800,000 DREAMers to remain in the country without fear of deportation and enabling them to seek employment. The President went on:

“Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people.”

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Hacking Away at Threats

mobile phone activate

Developing an App to securely capture and transmit photo and video

In a little over a week, I’ll make my way to San Francisco to participate in an innovation event that represents the cutting edge of the promise of science and technology in the fight for human rights.

Colleagues from Amnesty International will simultaneously be convening in Berlin, and in both cities, Amnesty and their partners Random Hacks of Kindness, (with their apt slogan “Hacking for Humanity”) will seek practical solutions to the very real threats that refugees and migrants face in transit in Mexico and the Mediterranean in a two-day “hack-a-thon.”

As an aside, for those wedded to the pejorative association with ‘hack,’ ‘hacking,’ ‘hackers,’ a hackathon event is “a gathering of technically skilled individuals focusing on collaborative efforts to address a challenge, issue, or goal.” In this case, the challenge is significant.

Every year, tens of thousands of women, men and children are ill-treated, abducted or raped as they travel through Mexico without legal permission as irregular migrants. As we’ve tragically seen as people have fled Libya and elsewhere in North Africa, the “Mediterranean takes record as most deadly stretch of water for refugees and migrants in 2011“.

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California Dreamin’ Becomes A Reality, But Is It Enough?

By Amalia Greenberg Delgado, Immigrants’ Rights Coordinator

Immigrant rights groups rally in California

© J. Emilio Flores/Getty Images

Just two weeks ago Governor Brown signed into law California DREAM Act AB 130, allowing undocumented students, who studied at least three years in California high schools or have an equivalent high school degree, to be  eligible for non-state private scholarship awards.

For the last ten years California has already provided students the right to access instate tuition, regardless of immigration status, as long as they meet the requirements set under  AB 540, which was signed into law almost 10 years ago and was successfully upheld by the Supreme Court this past year.

California advocates continue to push Governor Brown to also sign AB 131, a law that would extend instate funds for undocumented students.

The implementation of both bills will prevent students from being forced to decide between foregoing a college education and remaining in the US with their families and community or leaving the U.S. in search of an affordable and accessible education.

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Migrants in Mexico at Risk of Mass Kidnapping, Torture, Abuse

“To put this in perspective, more people are dying in Mexico than Afghanistan.” –General Barry McCaffrey

Pictures of migrants whose relatives have no news of since they left for the US © Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images

Despite a violent “war on drugs” that started five years ago, Mexicans are experiencing an increase in organized crime and drug-related violence along the Mexican border. Other criminals are not the only, perhaps even primary, target of violence.

As it has become more difficult to conduct drug trafficking due to efforts from the Mexican government, organized crime is targeting migrants from Southern Mexico and Central Americans who are attempting to reach the United States.

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Using Border Agents as Translators Has Tragic Consequences

Border Patrol Agent

© Getty Images

Guest post by Erica Schommer, border immigration attorney

This May, in a police stop gone wrong, Benjamin Roldan Salinas and a companion were detained by the U.S. Forest Service for picking salal (a plant used in floral arrangements), without a license.

Because Salinas did not speak English, the Forest Service called in Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to translate. Events escalated rapidly when Salinas, in fear of being apprehended by immigration agents, ran from the agents to a nearby river.

After days of searching, Salinas’ body was found near the river on June 4. His companion remained with agents, but was subsequently arrested by the CBP for a suspected immigration violation and placed in removal proceedings.

Salinas’ fear was due to a phenomenon in which the CBP is called on by outside law enforcement agencies under the guise of translator. Once on the scene, however, the CBP does not limit itself to translating and will question a person about potential immigration violations if it suspects the person of an infraction. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST