750 mi­grants con­tinue trek to U.S. bor­der

San Francisco Chronicle - - WORLD - By Mark Steven­son and Christo­pher Sher­man Mark Steven­son and Christo­pher Sher­man are As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers.

MEX­ICO CITY — About 750 Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants headed out of Mex­ico City on Fri­day to em­bark on the long­est and most dan­ger­ous leg of their jour­ney to the U.S. bor­der, while thou­sands more were wait­ing one more day at a mas­sive im­pro­vised shel­ter.

The group that got a head start bun­dled their few pos­ses­sions and started off, tak­ing a sub­way to the north part of the city and then hik­ing down an ex­press­way with a po­lice es­cort.

For many, it was the first time they had ever been in a metro sys­tem, and they had lit­tle knowl­edge of the city or the 1,740 mile route to Ti­juana that lay ahead of them.

Car­los Cas­tanaza, a 29-year-old plumber from Gu­atemala City, wrapped him­self from head to toe in a blan­ket against the cold and asked by­standers where the first toll booth was. When told it was in a town about 20 miles away, he care­fully wrote the name of the town on his hand with a pen to re­mem­ber where he was go­ing.

De­ported for driv­ing with­out a li­cense af­ter a decade work­ing in Con­necti­cut, Cas­tanaza was des­per­ate to get back to his two U.S.-born chil­dren. “I’ve been want­ing to get back for more than a year, but I couldn’t un­til the car­a­van came through,” said Cas­tanaza. “That’s why I joined the car­a­van.”

Mean­while, an­other 4,000 to 5,000 mi­grants milled around the mas­sive shel­ter im­pro­vised at a Mex­ico City sports com­plex, im­pa­tient to leave.

“Let’s go, let’s go!” shouted Eddy Rivera, 37, a rail-thin mi­grant from Hon­duras who said he couldn’t take stay­ing in the camp any longer. “We are all sick, from the hu­mid­ity and the cold,” said Rivera, who left be­hind four chil­dren and a wife in Hon­duras. “We have to get go­ing, we have to get to Ti­juana.”

Though he was un­sure how an un­skilled farm­worker like him­self would be al­lowed in the U.S., he had a sim­ple dream: earn enough money to build a lit­tle house for his fam­ily back in Puerto Cortes, Hon­duras. Mex­ico City is more than 600 miles from the near­est U.S. bor­der cross­ing at McAllen, Texas, but the area around the Mex­i­can bor­der ci­ties of Reynosa, Mata­moros and Nuevo Laredo is so rife with drug gangs that the mi­grants con­sider it too dan­ger­ous to risk.

“Cal­i­for­nia is the long­est route but is the best bor­der, while Texas is the clos­est but the worst” bor­der, said Jose Luis Fuentes of the Na­tional Lawyers Guild.

Ro­drigo Abd / As­so­ci­ated Press

Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants re­sume their jour­ney af­ter leav­ing shel­ter at a Mex­ico City sports com­plex.

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