On Wednesday December 12, host Jan Miyasaki spoke with Sebastian Rotella, an award winning foreign correspondent and a senior investigative reporter at ProPublica, Sebastian Rotella. Prior to working at ProPublica, Sebastian worked for the L.A.Times for twenty three years. He has most recently been focusing on changes in immigration patterns, especially migrants coming in to the United States from south of the Mexican border, a group that is often not focused on.
Says Sebastian, “Overall illegal immigration has gone down a lot, even though sometimes the political debates make it seem like it’s out of control. And the proportions have changed – what my story shows is that although Mexicans are still the biggest group that crosses, the proportions have changed dramatically.”
Sebastian explains that the number of Central Americans crossing into the U.S. has substantially risen, especially those from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, countries especially faced with violence and poverty. The demographic of this group is largely young adults who are traveling alone. While there are relatively fewer obstacles to face when crossing into the Southern Mexican border, the migrants face numerous problems at the Mexican-American border, where they are highly vulnerable to extortion, robbery, rape and murder by gangsters, smugglers, and corrupt officials.
The Mexican drug cartels also play a heavy role in the thriving smuggling business.Sebastian explains that many of the youth are escaping the environment of violence from their hometowns, but only encounter more violence at the hands of those networked around the smugglers. He describes a situation of “systematic recruitment” by the drug cartels at the border.
Sebastian had interviewed two individuals from Ecuador, Marco and his wife, who paid $11,000 per person to come to New York, “They move through a very loose but highly organized network – they were given a phone number and a codeword… They started in Ecuador, and went to Honduras where they stayed at a safe house, to Guatemala, and then to Mexico.” At Mexico, they had been placed on a train alone where they got caught by Mexican officials. Sebastian explains that although they were disappointed, the couple was also relieved that they did not have to go through the most dangerous part of the smuggling process that was still to come at the Mexican-American border.
The detention centers, Sebastian describes, were packed fully with migrants from across Central America and Mexico who were caught. After the migrants are discharged from the detention centers, they are deported back to their respective countries in Central or South America. However, for migrants from countries in Asia and Africa, the situation is often more complicated, “…particularly for those from India or East Africa, sometimes you have people who are stateless, or who refuse to say where they are from, so in that case they may end up staying in Mexico as refugees…”
Read Sebastian Rotella’s piece: The New Border: Illegal Immigration’s Shifting Frontier.
Listen to the entire interview here: