Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Guatemalan angle on immigration

We find another angle on illegal immigration today with an article from Reuters India. The story concentrates on immigrants from Guatemala. Once immigrants are deported back, they find themselves with less money than before, and become easy recruits for street gangs.

Guatemala is ranked as the most violent country in Central America. Caused in part by Mexican gangs fleeing to Guatemala after being flushed out by the military.

For our snippet, reporter Sarah Grainger talks about immigration enforcement and gives the example of one deportee.

As successive U.S. governments have responded to pressure to crack down on undocumented immigrants, the size and frequency of deportations has risen steadily.

In 2008 the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency sent home nearly 30,000 Guatemalans, a rise of 21 percent on 2007, and the figure is on course to rise again in 2009.

Still scarred by a 36-year civil war which ended in 1996, Guatemala is ill-equipped to deal with the thousands of people returning, jobless, to a shaky economy.

Crime rates are sky-high, with more than 6,000 murders last year in the country of just 13 million people. Mexican drug gangs, under pressure at home from an army crackdown, have moved into Guatemala and are seeking recruits there.

Easy money from being a cartel lookout, driver or hitman is tempting in countries where wages are pitiful.

Carlos Aguilar, 26, recently swapped the neatly clipped lawns of the Royal Wood Golf and Country Club in Naples, Fla. where he made $600 a week as a groundsman, for back-breaking work on his uncle's coffee farm near the mountain village of El Bosque, where he is lucky to pocket $40 in a week.

Arrested after a decade in the United States and placed on a deportation flight with 90 other Guatemalans, he is finding it hard to adjust, especially having left his wife and children in Florida, where they are legal residents.

"Here there's no way out and you're worried about having enough money for food just to survive. But there it's very different because each week you get your paycheck from work and the banks even offer you credit," he said.

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