CHAHUITES, Mexico (AP) -- Mexico's largest crackdown in decades on illegal migration has decreased the flow of Central Americans trying to reach the United States, and has dramatically cut the number of child migrants and families, according to officials and eyewitness accounts along the perilous route.<br />
Convoys of Mexican federal police and immigration service employees in southern Mexico have begun scouring the tracks of the infamous freight train known as "La Bestia," or The Beast, hauling migrants from the rail cars and sending them to deportation centers. They have also set up moving roadblocks, checking the documents of passengers on interstate buses.<br />
Associated Press journalists who followed the train one night this week as it left the southern state of Chiapas and entered neighboring Oaxaca noticed the drop-off, with just a few dozen mostly adult males perched atop the rumbling cars instead of the hundreds of men, women and children who were there not long ago. The men said they were the only ones able to evade capture. There were only two women and no children on the train.<br />
"They took almost everyone" said Jorge Ruiz Williams, a 20-year-old Honduran migrant who avoided detention and was seated atop La Bestia on Tuesday night. "We escaped because we're young and agile."<br />
When the authorities come, the migrants who once circulated openly in shelters and boarded the cars as they were being attached to the locomotive are forced to hide in the woods, where criminals lurk.<br />
Some of the Central American men say that instead of trying to cross into the United States they'll now stay and look for work in Mexico. Many families have apparently decided not to attempt the journey through Mexico at all since news of the raids and checkpoints - combined with stepped up efforts in the U.S. and among Central American governments - reached their communities, said Carlos Solis, the manager of a shelter in Arriaga. He said the city, once bustling with migrants waiting to board the train, emptied out almost overnight.
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
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