Story

Life of a Migrant in Altar, Sonora

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Migrants spend the day in a guest house in Altar, Sonora, the jumping of point for most people crossing the Sonoran Desert into Arizona. People come to Sonora and usually spend a few days in the guesthouses while they arrange or wait for their trip to begin. Sometimes the migrants are put into guesthouses that are more akin to prisons and are not allowed to leave until their trek north begins.

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Migrants spend the day in a guest house in Altar, Sonora, the jumping of point for most people crossing the Sonoran Desert into Arizona. People come to Sonora and usually spend a few days in the guesthouses while they arrange or wait for their trip to begin. Sometimes the migrants are put into guesthouses that are more akin to prisons and are not allowed to leave until their trek north begins.

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Migrants spend the day in a guest house in Altar, Sonora, the jumping of point for most people crossing the Sonoran Desert into Arizona. People come to Sonora and usually spend a few days in the guesthouses while they arrange or wait for their trip to begin. Sometimes the migrants are put into guesthouses that are more akin to prisons and are not allowed to leave until their trek north begins.

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A migrant prays in Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Altar, Sonora before beginning on his journey through the Sonoran Desert and into Arizona. In addition to braving the harsh desert environment, migrants also must endure bandits and drug dealers.

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A migrant prays in Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Altar, Sonora before beginning on his journey through the Sonoran Desert and into Arizona. In addition to braving the harsh desert environment, migrants also must endure bandits and drug dealers.

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Marcos Burruel, the administrator at the only free shelter for migrants in Altar, questions new arrivals to determine if they are truly migrants in need. Often travelers, local homeless people or coyotes looking for customers arrive to the shelter.

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A view of the desert in Altar, Sonora. In addition to braving the harsh desert environment, migrants also must endure bandits and drug dealers.

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Alfredo Juarez sits in the central plaza in Altar, Sonora as he tries to arrange a trip back to Veracruz state where he is from. Alfredo recently tried to cross the desert into the US but was caught and deported by the Border Patrol. He will now go home before trying again in about 1 month.

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Migrants in Altar often call their families from call centers to either arrange for pick up and payment in the US or, if they are returning home, to get money wired to them for a trip home.

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Migrants spend the day in a guest house in Altar, Sonora, the jumping of point for most people crossing the Sonoran Desert into Arizona. People come to Sonora and usually spend a few days in the guesthouses while they arrange or wait for their trip to begin. Sometimes the migrants are put into guesthouses that are more akin to prisons and are not allowed to leave until their trek north begins.

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Recently deported migrants sit in the plaza in Altar, Sonora as they contemplate making another trip to the US. People come to Altar, Sonora and usually spend a few days in the guesthouses while they arrange or wait for their trip to begin.

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Migrants in a van that will take them from Altar, Sonora to Sasabe, where they will begin their trek across the desert.

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Migrants in a van that will take them from Altar, Sonora to Sasabe, where they will begin their trek across the desert.

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Migrants in a van that will take them from Altar, Sonora to Sasabe, where they will begin their trek across the desert.

Migrants flood into Altar, Sonora before making the dangerous journey across the Sonoran Desert and into the United States. They often pass through here after being deported from the US, as they try to get back home or to organize another crossing.

They stay in guesthouses, pray in church and try to get in touch with their families to have money sent to them. It is a dangerous town and no one is sure who to trust. Migrants typically spend their days in the town's plaza, searching for coyotes or guides, or simply waiting as their trip home or to the US comes together. If the migrants are crossing again,and not going home, they leave Altar stuffed into a van headed for Sasabe, the Mexican border town where the men wait to begin walking into the US.

David Rochkind / Pulitzer Center