Find his book on Juarez – Murder City, it’s called – and read that. Pretty fine piece of journalism, and reflective of the guy and his take on his craft and the world. With the rough-edged, opinionated, cranky prose that made him worth reading, and listening to. I met him once, at a conference at Cal State Northridge.
There aren’t too many out there like him any more.
The headline: The numbers of detained unaccompanied children dropped in half, to 5,500 in July.
Also fascinating in the DHS report: The monthly apprehension numbers show a huge leap in March and April, up to 7,000+ and reaching 10,000+ in each of May and June.
So most of those 57,000 kids that were reported detained since October actually came since March.
The suddenness of that surge reflected in the DHS figures adds credence to the idea that this was the result of rumors – spread by a Honduran television reporter, according a US official I spoke with – that the time to leave was now or never given pending legal changes in the U.S. So people began bolting.
But it’s remarkable that the situation on the ground – both harrowing violence and civic disintegration in Central America, dependence on jobs in the U.S., and the huge numbers of immigrants here — is such that rumors would spark a migration fever like that.
I find the whole furor to be surreal in another way. The surge in apprehended minors is really a sign of how well the immigration system is working. Certainly, total apprehensions, which are barometers of the the size of the flow of people trying to cross, are well down these days.
Years ago, when total apprehensions were always over a million annually, thousands of kids — most of them teenagers between 13 and 17 – came to the United States illegally and many of them were alone. But they were lost in the hundreds of thousands of adults who were also crossing.
But with those numbers down (well below 500,000 a year), the kids stand out more. It’s possible too that coyotes are seeing these kids as their last, or maybe a far more important, revenue stream and spreading rumors too. Desperate measures, perhaps reflecting a serious crisis among our friends in the human-smuggling industry.
Not to say that it’s a good thing that thousands of kids are streaming north, but it helps to keep some perspective.
Here are the DHS apprehension figures since January, 2014:
This month marks the signing of the Bracero Treaty between the U.S. and Mexico.
The 72nd anniversary – not a sexy number, I guess. But the moment seems relevant given the crisis of unaccompanied kids flowing up from Central America, in especially large numbers over the last couple months.
The furor, the appearance of the kids themselves, are part of the complicated perversity that now surrounds the immigration issue, where Americans want and don’t want immigrant laborers. It all began with the Bracero Treaty.
The treaty was signed in 1942, allowing Mexican guest workers to be contracted to work the fields of the United States, harvesting the food that the country and its military needed while men were fighting World War II.
But the important thing here is that the treaty began the transformation of America in many ways. First, it began the transition of agriculture, particularly in California, away from white, native-born labor to eventually an entirely Mexican, and then Mexican Indian, labor force today.
(In the early 1960s, Cesar Chavez, just then organizing farmworkers, was a main opponent of the treaty, and lobbied hard to end it. He was equally a fierce opponent of illegal Mexican labor.)
Our desire for cheap, plentiful labor trumped our dedication to the rule of law – a recurring theme through the next decades. So, crucially, the first large flows of illegal immigrants came at the same time as the two million legal laborers contracted under the treaty over its 22 years.
That, in turn, began the custom of migrating illegally that took hold in many Mexican states – Jalisco, Zacatecas, Michoacan and others – and has become a business for many.
The Bracero Treaty also began turning many parts of Mexico (and later Central America) into dependents of the U.S. economy. The first channels of immigration from certain villages to towns in the U.S. began with the treaty. That continues today. Some Mexican towns eventually just emptied almost entirely, a collection now of large, beautiful, unused houses built with immigrant dollars.
I made this video recently when I was in Culiacan, Sinaloa, where I walked the grounds of Jardines del Humaya, the cemetery that is the final resting place of dozens of legendary drug traffickers.
It looks like a mini-Beverly Hills. Some of the tombs have air conditioning, barbecue grills, sound systems, even bulletproof glass. A few are the size of a house or two near where I live.
Immigrant village cemetery, Michoacan
One had a long banner to a fallen, presumably murdered, brother, swearing to him, “There’s no truce.” (No hay tregua.)
I’ve seen much smaller versions of this in immigrant villages. One thing immigrants do with their dollars is build larger burial places. They do away with the iron crosses of their poverty and build themselves sepulchers with a statue of Jesus or the Virgin, maybe an open bible in stone.
But these are modest in comparison to the Jardines del Humaya.
Strange, excessive, lurid. I felt as if dropped into some foreign kingdom. These are the new Pharoahs.
I made this video with the help of my anonymous guide. I hope you like it. Feel free to subscribe to my Youtube channel – True Tales Video.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in Tijuana lately. I love that place.
In many ways, it’s the least Mexican of cities, but in a good way. True, it’s got none of the colonial architecture that tourists love in the Mexican interior. The town has only been what you’d call a city since the 1960s.
Tijuana, Avenida Revolucion
It was a blank slate in many ways. Which is good. For neither does it have the stifling and controlling economic structures that keep those outside from rising, and which are part of life in so many cities in Mexico. There’s a more meritocratic vibe in Tijuana, due to its newness and its proximity to the US. For those reasons and others, it has a very large middle class.
That middle class is changing, has been changing, the town in many ways. One is way is through high tech. There’s a real entrepreneurial effervescence nowadays, with lots of young people looking to tech as a way of starting their own companies, and not just some mom-and-pop tiendita either, but enterprises that provide employment for many.