UT Researchers Explain Analysis of Kidnappings Occurring along Border

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WESLACO – An old threat could be claiming new victims at the border. Long lines at ports of entry across the Rio Grande Valley are making asylum seekers targets.

A map created by researchers with the Mexico Security Initiative at Strauss Center at the University of Texas shows the number of kidnappings in a 12-year period, starting from 2006.

It shows Reynosa is the city with the most incidents, by far.

For migrants wishing to request asylum in the U.S., it's all about choice – which border city to go, whether to use a smuggler and how long they're willing to wait.

The wrong choice could end up in a kidnapping.

It happens all across Mexico; in Tamaulipas, it's different.

"Compared to even northwestern Mexico, it looks very different," says Stephanie Leutert, Director of the Strauss Center's Mexico Security Initiative at UT-Austin.

Leutert compiled data, along with Caitlyn Yates, from multiple governmental sources and news reports.

Of the total of 8,000 reported kidnappings from 2006 to 2018, about 40 percent happened in Tamaulipas – the majority reported out of Reynosa.

The migrants' risk depends on their choice to use a smuggler.

"I mean if you're a migrant in Reynosa and you've paid already, you've paid your tax. That's one thing. But asylum seekers are going because they haven't paid the tax. They don't have a smuggler," said Leutert.

Baja California and Sonora are other border states with reported kidnappings of migrants, but in those places cartels use smaller gangs to carry out those acts.

In Tamaulipas, cartels are in charge of this crime.

They're also more aggressive in carrying it out.

The data showed incidents tend to happen near or inside buses.

"The bus would be stopped and they would be forced to get out. Or, they would be at a bus station and they would be forced to leave with them," Leutert explains.

These risks are known to the migrants' governments.

McAllen Honduran Consul Ana Bulnes says there are efforts to incentivize them to stay in Honduras.

They have the 'Tu Norte Esta Aqui' campaign, but there's also financial investment.

"Not just campaigns but the government's funding is generating jobs. It's very important, because we've been able to generate these jobs in the municipalities where it's been determined the most emigration exists," she says.

Honduras is part of TricaMex – an organization made of the Mexican, northern triangle countries and the U.S.

It's their third anniversary of using collaboration to serve migrants but also warn them of danger.

"We're making them aware that the American Dream is important but their life is more important than that dream,” says Eduardo Bernal, Consul of Mexico in McAllen.

For migrants weighing their choices, these risks may be secondary.

Leutert believes there are other direct actions that could go further to ensure migrants' safety.

This includes having a public data repository that would track crimes against migrants, targeted awareness campaigns that speak to the risk of kidnapping in Mexico and increased vigilance at hot spots. 

The broader solution is to address the deep-seated criminal organizations which are the source of this violence.

For the complete report, click this link.


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