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The System of Albergues for Migrants in Transit. . .

Since the turn of the century a system of church-initiated, privately run migrant shelters ("albergues" in Spanish) has developed throughout Mexico and the northern countries of Central America. Typically at the direction of church groups, two or three lay people will rent or buy run-down warehouse space near the rail yards where Central American migrants hop freight trains to come to the United States, Canada or points in Mexico. After some amount of renovation the albergues invite migrants to come in to get warm meals and spend up to three nights in a safe environment. 

Currently there are more than 50 albergues serving Central American migrants transiting through Mexico and another dozen or so in Central American countries. CBIG inquiries indicate that only about a third of the Central American migrants heading north will use the albergues as one-to-three day resting points, with the other two-thirds using safe houses ("casas de huespedes") arranged by the coyote guides and transnational smugglers who contract with them.

Albergue in Arriaga, Chiapas, Mexico

Migrants in albergue in Arriaga, Chiapas, Mexico (credit: CBIG)

Many of the albergues in this loosely-knit system were started by religious from the Scalabrini order, but they are now funded by various church, civic and NGO groups, as well as private donations.  Most albergues will take some direction from the Pastoral de la Movilidad Humana (Pastoral Care of Human Mobility) movement. 

Casa de Migrante: An Albergue System Profile
by Richard Schaefer

Casa de Migrante, in the municipality of Tutitlán, just north of Mexico City and adjacent to the Lechería freight yard, opened its doors in early 2009. Like most albergues, it has traditionally only permitted migrants to spend three nights before resuming their perilous journeys. The overwhelming majority of the migrants in the albergue are Honduran men who hope to become part of the undocumented labor force in Northern Mexico and the United States, but a few may be returning to Honduras or Guatemala after working for months or years in the United States.

This video, which was adapted from a PowerPoint presentation to the Crises and Opportunities in Latin America conference at the University of California, Riverside in April 2010, recounts Richard J. Schaefer’s two-day stay in Casa de Migrante in November 2009, as well as other visits there in 2009 and 2010.

(View Casa de Migrante: An Albergue System Profile.)

Lecheria Albuergue Diary: Read Richard J. Schaefer's 33-page account of his stay in the Casa Migrante in Lecheria. Edited by Carolyn Gonzales and JoAnn Schaefer. (Download Lecheria: An Albergue System Diary.) The Lecheria Albergue closed its doors during the summer of 2012, with a new albergue opening that summer about 12 miles north in Huehuetoca.