All images by Daniel Ojeda/VICE News

Inside a Terrifying Stop for Migrants Heading to the US

We traveled to a nearly inaccessible spot in the Sonora desert where organized crime groups detain people on their way to North America.

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Oct 20 2017, 8:57pm

All images by Daniel Ojeda/VICE News

This article originally appeared on VICE Mexico. Leer en Español.

Deep in the Sonoran Desert, between the Mexican municipalities of Altar and Sásabe along the US border, sits a desolate place called La Ladrillera.

Barely anything has been written about the place—which is almost inaccessible—nor about the horrors undocumented Mexicans and Central Americans have endured there as part of their attempts to cross the US border.

La Ladrillera was originally a colony where red adobe walls were made. Today, the area is comprised of several structures used by an organized crime syndicate to detain men, women, and children on their way north. Hundreds—and perhaps thousands—of immigrant travelers have spent hours and days there in fear and anguish.

The area is said to be controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel, which includes multiple gangs of human traffickers and (allegedly) plenty of cops with questionable morals. The Cartel is believed to allow polleros (people smugglers) or coyotes and bajadores—gunmen who assault the polleros in order to seize their migrants and extort their families—to operate with impunity.

VICE Mexico traveled to this disturbing place, where we were able to document the evidence of the pain some of these migrants have experienced.

All of the following photos were taken by Daniel Ojeda.

Visible traces left behind by migrants on their way through the desert
A state policeman guards the area around La Ladrillera, where organized criminals detain captive migrants seeking to cross the border into the US.
Rosary beads carried by migrants to protect them on their passage through Mexico toward American soil. Seen here are various saints, Jesus Christ, and the Santa Muerte.
The interior of a house in La Ladrillera, including an old mattress, a baby chair, and an abandoned toy
A typical house in La Ladrillera
The bullet hole-laden exteriors of the buildings serve as evidence of past violence.
In this "room," we found baby chairs, rompers, and clothes.
Clothing and objects of the migrants' daily lives scattered around the houses
Children's shoes and toys along the road outside the houses
Children's dolls and shoes are evidence suggesting many minors have passed through the area.
A state police officer accompanying us through the area, always with his gun close by in the event of confrontation
A police officer inspects the surroundings of the route the polleros took before gaining access to La Ladrillera
On the way to La Ladrillera, we found a rusty sign with numerous bullet holes that recalled clashes involving organized crime.
Clothing and accessories like hats and camouflage sweatshirts are used by migrants while in the Sonoran Desert.
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