USA: The Devil's Highway

Channel 4

Unreported World

Go to About Section

Squatting in the shade of thorn bushes and squinting against the midday sun, a young Guatemalan woman fights back tears as she explains that she has left her mother and two-year-old son to cross the north Mexican desert and enter America illegally – traveling 'The Devil's Highway'.

Another girl, still in her teens, says she left home without telling her parents where she was going. But all the economic migrants interviewed are unshakeable in their belief that beyond the arid plains of north Mexico, a better life awaits them.

The Devil’s Highway shows the human cost of illegal immigration into America, a largely forgotten aspect of one of the key debating points in the current presidential campaign.

Those who make it across the desert can look forward to long hours in menial jobs and a furtive life without rights or papers, trying to evade detection. Those who don't either die from heat or exposure - there have been 4,000 recorded deaths in the desert - or are picked up and repatriated by American border guards. Many head straight out into the wilderness for another attempt.

Reporter Aidan Hartley and Producer Julie Noon don’t just focus on the migrants themselves; Hartley also speaks to those on the other side of the border - to the hardline American anti-immigration groups who patrol the border in army fatigues trying to prevent people crossing illegally, to those who travel the desert leaving water for the migrants, and to those who try to identify the anonymous corpses found in the desert.

Hartley concludes tighter security along the border - a wall, armed patrols and helicopters - has done nothing to stem the numbers; instead, it has driven would-be migrants into the hands of people smugglers and drug gangs, forcing them to find ever-more circuitous and dangerous routes through the desert. "The wall," says Hartley, "has become a tragic symbol of the division between rich and poor worlds."

- The Sunday Times

"Powerful…thoughtful documentary"
- The Observer

- The Daily Mail

First Broadcast

February 8, 2008



Producer Director

Julie Noon


Aidan Hartley

Executive Producer

Eamonn Matthews


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