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Crime & Justice

Pope to highlight migration in visit to US-Mexico border




In this Friday, Dec. 27, 2013 photo, workers at one of maquiladoras of the TECMA group prepare to raise the U.S. flag along with the Mexican and TECMA flags in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The city, once known for rampant violence, has turned a corner and has become a symbol of recovery from powerful drug cartels.
In this Friday, Dec. 27, 2013 photo, workers at one of maquiladoras of the TECMA group prepare to raise the U.S. flag along with the Mexican and TECMA flags in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The city, once known for rampant violence, has turned a corner and has become a symbol of recovery from powerful drug cartels.
Ivan Pierre Aguirre/AP

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Pope Francis is set to wrap up a five-day visit to Mexico with a highly-symbolic visit to Ciudad Juárez, a border city still recovering from extreme drug violence and a key gateway for migrants headed north to the US.

"Ciudad Juárez is a place of deep wounds going back as far as the Mexican Revolution," said Mónica Ortiz Uribe, senior correspondent with Fronteras. "More recently, there was a turf war between two rival drug cartels that created tremendous violence like the city had never seen."

That violence took more than 10,000 lives over a four-year span and dramatically reduced people coming from the U.S. side of the border. But starting in 2012, signs of recovery began to show.

"The city has slowly been coming out of that violence and trying to go back to normal," said Uribe. "This Papal visit is a chance for the city to hold it's head up high and say, 'We're getting better.'"

A member of the local police guards one of the hotels where policemen are billeted on January 31, 2012 in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico. Since then, the area has led a recovery from the violence.
A member of the local police guards one of the hotels where policemen are billeted on January 31, 2012 in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico. Since then, the area has led a recovery from the violence.
AFP/AFP/Getty Images

The visit is expected to also highlight the risks that many migrants face in their journey north through Mexico and into the U.S. with a meeting on the border Wednesday with immigrants.

"They include women and children and asylum-seekers and they'll be waiting on the Pope and expect to receive his blessing from the Mexico side," said Uribe. "They're also looking for him to talk about immigration, to talk about drug violence and overcoming that."

The Pope has been criss-crossing Mexico for the past four days.

At a Sunday mass, he spoke in front of a massive crowd just outside Mexico City, condemning the drug trade and demanding justice for the victims of forced migration. The day before, he met with President Enrique Peña Nieto and admonished the country's Catholic bishops for being out of touch with the needs of the poor.

Today, he's in Michoacán – and tomorrow he wraps up the visit in Ciudad Juárez, near the U.S. border.