More than 400,000 immigrants tried to enter the US undocumented through the southwestern border in 2016. The vast majority were from Central America. Most Central American immigrants travel along the same dangerous route, known as El Tren de la Muerte (“The Train of Death”).
Photographer Michelle Frankfurter spent years documenting immigrants traveling along the route.
Photographer Michelle Frankfurter had spent years traveling to Mexico and Central America as a photojournalist and human-rights worker. During her travels, she heard about a particular route that immigrants take to reach the US undocumented. In 2009, she set out to follow it. Following the path described in Sonia Nazario’s award-winning book “Enrique’s Journey,” Frankfurter headed to southern Mexico and followed the path north. In six journeys, she rode the treacherous El Tren de la Muerte (“The Train of Death”), came into contact with drug cartels, and befriended numerous migrant families, many of whom never made it to the US. Frankfurter has shared some of her photos with us here, but you can check out the rest at her website or in her book “Destino,” available now. SEE ALSO: A photographer who spent 5 years at Nevada’s brothels found legal prostitution was nothing like what he thought The first step of the journey is crossing the Suchiate River on rafts made of tractor tires. The river carries migrants between the Guatemalan border town of Tecún Umán and the Mexican town of Hidalgo in the southern state of Chiapas. After crossing the river, migrants hike 150 miles on foot to avoid Mexican migration checkpoints and reach Arriaga, a city in Chiapas. Here, a Salvadoran woman feeds her 18-month-old son at a migrant shelter in Chiapas after making the trek.
Frankfurter began the most significant part of her journey in Arriaga. Here, most migrants catch a freight train illegally to start their trek north.
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