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Anthropologist Unravels Mexican Migration

December 14, 2015 (1 min read)

National Geographic, Dec. 6, 2015 - "More than five million people were arrested between 2000 and 2013 while trying to cross the border from Mexico into Arizona.  A further 6.4 million were apprehended in Texas, California, and New Mexico.  Thousands more perished in the furnace-like heat of the Sonoran Desert, their bodies rarely recovered.  Yet despite the arduousness of the crossing and the high-tech surveillance systems arrayed against them, most of the survivors will attempt to cross again.  Jason De León, an anthropologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer, grew up in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.  His father is Mexican, his mother is from the Philippines, and he spent his childhood speaking Spanish.  For his book, The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail, he travelled up and down the border, interviewing would-be migrants and the relatives of those who died making the crossing.  Their often harrowing stories give a human face to these desperate journeys­—and overturn many of the negative stereotypes used to discredit them.  Speaking from the University of Michigan, where he is an assistant professor, he talks about why U.S. border crossing deaths go largely unrecorded while European migrant deaths are headline news; why American economic and drugs policies helped create the crisis; and why he calls the Prevention Through Deterrence program, which funnels migrants towards the Sonora Desert, a “killing machine.” "