On Thursday, the Mexican state of Chiapas was the site of a horrific truck crash that caused at least 53 migrants from Central and South America their lives. Witness accounts of the incident indicate that the driver of the truck, which was carrying over 160 undocumented migrants in the cargo carrier it was hauling, was speeding and lost control, causing the truck and trailer to overturn. The crash left bodies strewn across the highway, many writhing in pain with broken bones and serious internal injuries.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador responded to the scene on Friday with a statement outlining the cause of the migration as economic situations in Central and South American countries. “The migration problem cannot be solved by coercive measures, but by opportunities for work and well-being. People don’t leave their villages for pleasure, they do it out of necessity.”
The president’s words are backed by recent reports detailing that, as an example, Columbia’s prized coffee crop was reduced by ten percent this year. American media has also been reporting through the year on Haitians migrating from the South American countries of Brazil and Chile as they have been forced from their jobs and homes for a variety of reasons.
When combined with the seeming inviting nature of current immigration policies and lack of enforcement in the United States, the economic factor makes the often dangerous and expensive trip to the U.S. worth the risk for those who travel the route.
Panama’s SENAFRONT, or immigration forces, finalized an agreement with the United States in 2018 to assist in controlling the flow of migrants from South America headed to the U.S. They report ever-increasing numbers traversing the Darién Gap, known as the most dangerous place on Earth, in their efforts to migrate.
Mexico has seen similar increases in those coming from or through Central American countries such as Guatemala. Without knowing how many have avoided authorities, Mexico reports that they have detected 190,000 migrants illegally traveling through their country between January and September, three times as many as in 2020, with 74,300 being deported.
For the fiscal year 2021, October 2020 through September 2021, U.S. authorities reported 1.7 million migrants entering illegally. This was a record number, but only includes those who have been detected and detained by authorities, and does not account for those who have evaded detection.
The migrants who make the trip, regardless of their points of origin, face grueling weather conditions and dangers from nature. Food and water are in short supply, and they are in constant jeopardy of being attacked by highway robbery gangs and drug cartels. Travel is made in the back of pickup trucks, in cargo containers and semi-trailers, on train cars meant for hauling products instead of people, as well as on foot over uneven and unsafe terrain. For this, they either spend or commit literally thousands of dollars to those organizing caravans of migrants headed to the U.S.
In exchange for these commitments or payments, the coyotes, as the leaders are known, promise the migrants a chance to enter the U.S., find a home and work, and live a better life than they can imagine. Relaxed enforcement of U.S. immigration laws and policies serves as an additional enticement to those who make the trip.
It is possible, if not likely, that the almost 200 migrants involved in Thursday’s crash would not have been discovered before reaching the U.S. border. As Central and South American economies continue to decline, this truckload of migrants is only a fraction of those who will attempt the expedition toward a new and better life.
In short, the victims of this horrific crash are an indication that a new surge is on its way, and that the surges will continue.