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Recession, drug war foils Mexican migrants' holiday pilgrimage

Instead of making their way home for Christmas, many migrant workers are staying stateside.

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Transit officer Salvador Macias Medina parked his car just over the bridge connecting Mexico to El Paso, Texas, poised to help migrants navigate through Ciudad Juárez and to their hometowns for Christmas. "I've been here since 2 p.m. and not a single compatriot has sought help."

Since Dec. 1, the city has been at the ready to help immigrants pass through this rough and tumble town – known for its corruption and crooks – but only 44 cars have sought help, says Mr. Macias Medina. "It's strange," he says. "It must be the recession in the US."

Typically, a million Mexicans head south in December loaded down with toys for Christmas. At home, they receive a hero's welcome for their hard labor and largesse. But this year, with an economic recession, drug war, and tougher border enforcement, fewer cars are rolling through with less bounty to unload.

"For over 70 years, they have come home for Christmas, like Santa Claus to the families and as benefactors of the community," says Rodolfo Garcia Zamora, an economic development and immigration expert at the Autonomous University of Zacatecas. "Now this image, formed during peak economic growth, is being demystified."

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