New search takes place for migrants feared dead in cartel feud along Texas-Mexico border

The aerial search, via a Blackhawk helicopter, was conducted by Mexico’s military and state investigators in an isolated area. | Lea esta nota en español

A poster of 14 migrants who have gone missing in the desert of Chihuahua between September and November.

By Alfredo Corchado, Dallas Morning News

EL PASO — Searchers returned to a patch of the Chihuahuan desert Sunday in hopes of finding the remains of missing migrants, including 13 Mexicans who disappeared this fall.

The aerial search, via a Blackhawk helicopter, was conducted by Mexico’s military and state investigators in an isolated area that included Lomas de Arena and Bosque Bonito, according to a statement by the attorney general’s office. That is the area where dozens of migrants are believed to have disappeared this year, according to an investigation by The Dallas Morning News and Marfa Public Radio.

“The operation produced abandoned vehicles and campsites used for the trafficking of migrants,” the statement said. A spokesperson did not elaborate on how many previous searches have been conducted in the area.

One family member said the latest search is part of an ongoing effort.

“I think this search is either number four or five,” said Rocío Martinez, 33, wife of Benigno Alvarez, one of the missing migrants. She called the operation “important, and a positive step because we need to keep pressuring authorities to find leads into what happened to our loved ones.”

“We will keep pressuring our government until they show us they’re alive, or show us their bodies,” she said. “For us there is no holiday this week, there is no Christmas dinner, or gifts. Each day is another filled with sadness and emptiness.”

In late September, 13 migrants, mostly from the Chihuahua City area and headed to Midland-Odessa and North Texas, were kidnapped in Chihuahua near the Texas border. Some believe they were killed during a turf war between drug cartels feuding over smuggling routes.

Mexico has been racked by drug violence for decades. But veteran security and immigration experts say the wave of kidnappings is, in part, spurred on by U.S. immigration policies that have left tens of thousands of migrants in limbo along the border, lingering in dangerous Mexican towns.

Cartels are believed to be fighting over smuggling routes because human smuggling has become a big business. One security expert estimates that in Chihuahua state alone, human smuggling brings in nearly $30 million per month.

The incident was only one of the latest examples of migrants vanishing in a nation that struggles with high numbers of missing people, kidnappings and violence. Across the country more than 95,000 people have been declared missing by Mexico’s National Search Commission.

More than 34,000 people were killed last year in Mexico’s ongoing war among various factions of organized crime.

Marfa Public Radio border reporter Annie Rosenthal contributed to this report.

Listen to Marfa Public Radio’s Annie Rosenthal and Dallas Morning News Border Correspondent Alfredo Corchado discuss the missing migrants on National Public Radio.

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