“The Beast” – Immigrant “Death Train” has high human cost

Tabasco state government press office

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2014 — For the thousands of people trying to escape across the Mexico-U.S. border, the chances of success are slim. Some give up, unable to complete the physically demanding journey. Others fall prey to the drug gangs. They are kidnapped or are sliced by the wheels of The Beast, the freight trains they hop, hoping for a bit of ease in their travel.

The Beast is part of a network of freight trains that run the length of Mexico, from Guatemala to the U.S. The train is also called the Death Train.

The human cost of the illegal immigration surge is growing as reports come in that “The Beast” has derailed. The accident, which happened on Wednesday, was in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.

About 1,300 migrants were stranded, left at risk.

The cargo train usually carries grains, corn and scrap metal, but now children are clambering on top of cars, between couplings, anywhere they can grab hold and ride north. They sit on top of the train, trying to not get knocked, jarred or blown off.

While the train can make the journey north faster, it carries extreme risks. They say thousands die. The people are injured trying to jump onto the train, falling off, and being mangled under the metal wheels.

The safety concern is central; The Beast carries not only migrants, but also predators looking for victims to rob, kidnap, or force into the sex or drug trade. Rapes are frequent; smugglers are known to give their ‘clients’ birth control pills.

Since October 2013, more than 50,000 unaccompanied minors have come from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to the United States. It is illegal for them to walk through Mexico, so they travel through the jungles and other back ways, a dangerous journey even without the human predators.

Erik Vanegas from Honduras says he has no choice but to ride the freight trains in Mexico.

“We ask for rides in the street, and people don’t want to pick us up because we are undocumented. It’s the same on the buses. They won’t take us because we are here without papers,” Vanegas tells NPR.

Children are being sent by their parents with “coyotes,” human traffickers who exploit these families, charging as much as $6,000 per child to take them to the United States. The fee often exceeds the annual salary of the families who send their children to the U.S. border. Many of these children never make it to the United States. The journey claims thousands of lives.

In 2010, the numbers of missing migrants, many killed in Mexico, were in the hundreds. Reports are that in 2010, more than 20,000 were kidnapped according to Mexico’s Human Rights Commission. They are held for ransom of hundreds or thousands of dollars. Families in the U.S. and Central America are told to wire money to banks in Mexico to free the children, the hostages.

NPR reports that in the Mexican state of Tamulipas, 72 immigrants were slaughtered last year.

One has to wonder how many of the missing children ended up in sex trafficking, drug trafficking or forced labor. The human cost of this immigrant is high. For many, coming North is a dying proposition and until the extreme danger for those that walk and ride here is eliminated, we should do everything we can to keep them from taking this dangerous journey to an uncertain reception.

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