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The state of Chiapas has become Mexico's biggest sender of migrants to the United States, and a Mexican official who has headed the Institute for Mexicans Abroad says he thinks he knows why.
Chiapas traditionally was not a sender of migrants, but that changed radically in the past decade and a half. Carlos García de Alba, speaking at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California San Diego on Thursday, said his personal belief is that Chiapanecos are following the lead of Central Americans passing through Chiapas on their way to the United States. Many Central Americans also have settled in Chiapas state, which borders Guatemala.
Chiapas now is sending 16% of Mexico's migrants crossing the northern border to the United States, García de Alba said. He said Chiapas' switch to becoming a heavy sender of migrants had nothing to do with Subcommander Marcos, who led a rebellion of Chiapas Indians in 1994. Rather, "When the Central Americans started crossing the state of Chiapas, they (the Chiapanecos) started following the Central Americans," García de Alba said.
García de Alba said all Mexican states but two, Quintana Roo and Baja California Sur, now are primary senders of migrants to the United States.
According to Mexican government figures, in 2008, 45,761 residents of Chiapas were returned to Mexico by the U.S. Border Patrol. Oaxaca was second with 45,035. In the same year, 661 residents of Baja California Sur state were returned, and 479 from Quintana Roo. In 1995, 4,731 Chiapas residents were returned, with Baja California Sur's number at 762 and Quintana Roo's number at 305.
García de Alba is leaving the Institute for Mexicans Abroad to become ambassador to Ireland. He formerly served as Mexico's consul general in Dallas.