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Migrant Crisis Floods Chile as Socialist Venezuela Causes World's Second-Largest Mass Exodus


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THE BOLIVIAN DESERT - While the U.S. southern border is still inundated with thousands of illegal border crossings each month, we're not the only country struggling with this issue. The South American country of Chile is being overwhelmed by migrants crossing from Bolivia, and they've deployed their military to try and stop the flow.  

Migrants catch rides when they can, and when all else fails, they're making the journey on foot. They're spread out among back roads leading south through Colombia, Peru, and here, in Bolivia. They've left home countries like Venezuela because it's almost impossible to survive on the minimum salary of only $2 a month.

Venezuelan migrant Rodolfo Gomez told us, "Most people don't have a way to survive in Venezuela, so they are looking to leave."

Gomez and his family have already been on the road for months. But they're not headed to the United States. They're headed south, to a country which enjoys the highest standard of living in all of Latin America.  And they've trekked through several countries to get there.

Gomez said, "Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Now we go to Chile."

He's run out of money, however, so his family occupies this street corner hoping their luck will improve.

Gomez said, "Candy, face masks, pens. We sell whatever we can to survive. The process is... just to get passage little by little, border by border."

Venezuela is now the source of the world's second-largest mass exodus, after Syria, and it's being felt throughout the hemisphere.

CBN News visited the Bolivian Altiplano, at an elevation of 12,000 feet, along the border between Bolivia and Chile. Right now there are thousands of migrants crossing this border illegally here in broad daylight. And even more will cross at night. 

We observed soldiers on the Chilean side trying to stop the migration, but it's very difficult because no matter how far out the soldiers post, the migrants just walk a little bit further and cross illegally anyway. That's a big problem because it's very dangerous up here. At night it gets super cold and so many of these migrants are dying along the way.

"The path is dangerous when they come illegally because the temperature can easily dip below zero in this sector," Chilean Army 2nd Lt. Alejandro Torres explained. 

Local media reports that nearly 30 people have died here, attempting the crossing over the last 12 months. Soldiers tell us they are here to keep that from happening although they see their efforts as futile.

Torres said, "People come this way basically looking for an easy way in, from here, they can walk just a kilometer or so and enter without trouble. Then they come back here and are put into a camp run by the police. They fill out a form seeking asylum, and then undergo a quarantine of about 14 days."

Bolivian locals told us the military only makes things worse.

Resident Juana Velazques said, "Down there they have to cross in water up to their waists!  And some have children... what are they supposed to do?"

Given the choice though between this desert and the more deadly Darien Gap journey to the U.S., many migrants decide to head south instead of north. They hope to find work in Chile, where they can earn more in a day than they can in a month in their home countries. Still, most hope this isn't permanent.

One Venezuelan migrant told us, "My hope is that things get better in Venezuela and we can go back to our country. That's it. That's all we want. We have faith that one day it will happen."

Until then, Chile will have something in common with the U.S. as they struggle to find a way to deal with tens of thousands of desperate people flooding across their borders.

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