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MAP: A Perilous Journey Across Mexico

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Hundreds of thousands of people each year try to cross illegally over the southeastern border of the United States. Most of them are from Mexico and Central America, although an increasing number of Asians are also traveling overland across Mexico to try to sneak in.

For migrants from Central America and southern Mexico, the quickest route to the U.S. is along the Gulf Coast to southern Texas. During the drug war, however, this has become one of the most dangerous parts of Mexico.

Since 2009, the Zetas drug cartel has been fighting its former boss, the Gulf cartel, for control of northeastern Mexico. Last year, members of the Zetas, according to prosecutors, slaughtered 72 migrants on a ranch in the town of San Fernando.

This year, the Zetas were setting up roadblocks on the main highway to Matamoros and kidnapping migrants off long-haul buses. Migrants describe being beaten and forced to pay hundreds, even thousands, of dollars to be released.

Mexico’s Human Rights Commission says the southern states of Tabasco, Chiapas and Oaxaca also have become hot spots where migrants are attacked, extorted by local officials and kidnapped. The commission adds that the areas around Tijuana, Nogales and the Big Bend stretch of the Texas border are also extremely dangerous sections of the migrant route.

-- Jason Beaubien

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


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