Border Crisis Update – How Immigrants Get There

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Border Crisis Update – How They Get Here by Gary D. Halbert


by Gary D. Halbert

August 14, 2014

Riding “The Beast” To America

Instead of my blog that I normally write on Thursdays, this is a Special Edition of my Forecasts & Trends E-Letter. The photo just below was sent to me by a reader and this led me to the other images that follow. They are very disturbing!

I think we have all wondered how the tens of thousands of Central American illegal immigrants arrived at our Texas border this year. The number of accompanied and unaccompanied children alone is estimated at some 60,000 so far and could reach 90,000 by the end of this year according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Here is one way they come:


Most of us who have been following this crisis have heard that some of the illegals were coming here by train, but these photos which have surfaced recently are stunning to say the least. Maybe you’ve seen them before but I first saw them this morning.

There’s a network of freight trains that runs the length of Mexico, from its southernmost border with Guatemala north to the United States. In addition to grain, corn, scrap metal, etc., these freight trains are carrying an increasing number of undocumented immigrants whose aim is to cross into the US.

And despite the many deadly challenges it poses, more and more children – both with adults and alone – have been making the risky journey. These aren’t passenger trains; there are no  windows, seats or even a roof to guard from sun or rain. People call the trains La Bestia, or The Beast. Some call them “Death Trains” due to the many fatalities.

It’s estimated that up to a half-million illegals now ride The Beast trains each year, sitting back-to-back along the spine of the train cars, trying not to get knocked off their rooftop perch. Journeys on the trains can take a week or more, and many illegals have made this trip more than once, according to photojournalist Kevin Dannemiller who has lived in Mexico for almost 30 years.

From the Mexican border with Guatemala, the trek by train is 1,450 miles. Most of the riders are from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Instead of being helped onto merry-go-round horses, kids from these countries are hoisted onto the back of these trains that may well spit them out, rather than shepherd them safely to the US border.


The questions are many and more than I can go into in this Special Edition of F&T-E. Perhaps the most obvious is, how do they survive this dangerous week-or-longer journey? Another is, do they have to pay to ride The Beast and, if so, who do they pay and how much? Sadly, it appears that gangs such as the Zetas and MS13 control who gets to ride and at what price.

Travel on the train is extremely dangerous. Derailments are frequent, including an August 2013 incident that injured scores of people and killed 11. Rapes are reportedly common on The Beast, and immigrants are often robbed or extorted during the trip. As a result of this danger and the blistering July-August weather, ridership is reportedly down significantly recently.

As of the end of July, DHS estimated that only 10% of all immigrants entering the US in South Texas use The Beast, but that number is likely to increase again when cooler weather arrives. The DHS admitted recently that up to 1,500 people ride the freight trains daily.


Interestingly, The Beast train network is reportedly owned by a US railroad company – Kansas City Southern (KCS) – that acquired it in 2005. There is a story here, but I’ll leave that for another time.

Best regards,


Gary D. Halbert

UPDATE – The Kansas City Southern Railway Company has sent ValueWalk the following statement:

On Sunday, July 13 Jerome R. Corsi, Ph.D. and Senior Staff Reporter for published a report entitled, “Mexicans blame Americans for ‘Death Train’” which wrongly asserts that a train sometimes referred to as “La Bestia” (“The Beast”) is owned and run by Kansas City Southern de Mexico (“KCSM”), a Mexican wholly-owned subsidiary of Kansas City Southern (“KCS”) , a U.S. company headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri with operations in the United States.

KCS and KCSM are and have been aware of the situation where immigrants illegally board trains, mainly Central American immigrants coming from Mexico’s southern border where KCSM does not operate, for some time. The “La Bestia” train often shown and referred to in media reports, including the photograph that accompanied Mr. Corsi’s report, is not on KCSM tracks and is not a KCSM train.  KCSM does not operate such a train.  Since the initial report of July 13, has revised its report.

Because this situation mainly involves immigrants coming from Mexico’s southern border where we believe the photo used by Mr. Corsi is from and where KCSM does not operate, the number of people illegally boarding KCSM trains north of this region is very minimal and subject to heavy railroad security enforcement and respect for human rights.

KCSM complies strictly with the security laws and regulations, maintaining close coordination with Mexican and U.S. federal immigration and security authorities. KCSM has regulations for its security crews who must respect the physical integrity of any person who might gain access to one of its trains traveling illegally on the railway.

KCSM has made significant investments to increase the security of railway operations in terms of technology, security staff and intelligence, as well as operating systems related to security in stations, shipping points and the main points of our railway network to prevent this kind of illegal activity.

KCS is and has been actively engaged with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security providing intelligence briefings to the Commissioner of Customs and Border Patrol (“CBP”) and his executive staff and other U.S.  intelligence agencies on the immigration issue.  KCS is in daily contact with the Texas Department of Public Safety (“DPS”), sharing information and conducting continuous research to support and provide timely information to the DPS Commander in the Rio Grande Valley.

KCS has briefed and continues to provide intelligence for DPS on Mexico to assist with timely information based on KCSM’s extensive security network in Mexico.  KCS has researched, developed and implemented security protocols that have minimized illegal use of our trains north of the area where La Bestia operates.  KCSM’s security model lends itself to transparency and allows us to share data reports as needed with  government agencies.

The Kansas City Southern Railway in the U.S. and KCSM in Mexico are responsible corporate citizens who have invested heavily in security technology, staff, intelligence, and operating systems; who comply strictly with the security laws and regulations in the U.S. and Mexico; who respect the physical integrity of any person who might gain access to one of its trains traveling illegally on the railway; and who have and continue to coordinate closely with U.S., Mexican, and State of Texas officials.  Any assertion that our railroads are in any way complicit in the use of the Mexican railroads for transit of illegal immigrants through Mexico  even on railroads not related to KCS is wrong.

C. Doniele Carlson | AVP Corporate Communications & Community Affairs

The Kansas City Southern Railway Company


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