Crackdown in Arizona

In March, federal officials announced an Arizona Border Control Initiative, which would officially increase efforts to crack down on immigrants illegally crossing the border between Mexico and Arizona - a section that officials say has been particularly problematic.

"There are people who cross legally and illegally every day," said Dean Boyd, a spokesman for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

In a report earlier this year, the Urban Institute estimated the undocumented immigrant population at 9.3 million as of 2002 - with estimates that between 120,000 and 150,000 of those immigrants are in Maryland. A prior estimate from the Department of Homeland Security put the percentage of such immigrants coming from Mexico at 70 percent.

"The driving force behind the migration phenomenon is economic - people wanting to enter the U.S. because of economic need," Villarreal said.

In Tenenexpan, where working as a farmer pays $50 a week, the Quezada family couldn't agree more.

The adventurous spirits who want to try their luck getting across the border pay a coyote about $1,400. Entry into the United States is never guaranteed, said several family members who have successfully made the trip and later came back home.

"I was very scared of the crossing," said Rafael Quezada Huerta, 38, who came into the country illegally in 2000 and lived in Los Angeles exactly one year and 16 days. "You hear about a lot of accidents in the desert."

Huerta sold his family's only truck to pay the coyote. His cousin who lives next door, Luz Maria Quezada, 37, borrowed money from friends, family and neighbors in 1999 to pay her coyote. His brother, Pasqual Quezada, 55, sold three cows in order to make his trip last year. All have since returned.

For Luz Maria Quezada, a single mother of three, the trip was long, hot and terrifying. She went to earn enough money to finish her house so her children would have a nice place to live.

Her crossing was a four-day trek in which she and two others walked during the night and slept on the ground during the day. They carried water and chicken to sustain themselves.

"I had no idea if I would make it alive," she said.

She ended up in Phoenix, where she worked in a restaurant for three years.

Huerta ended up in Los Angeles cleaning a wood furniture factory for $5 an hour. But he sighs heavily when he explains how he got there.

He piled into the back of a covered pickup truck with two dozen other men - each sitting in a line with open legs, almost in each other's laps.

During the two-day trip, the coyote would occasionally pass back some water. There was no food; no one spoke a word during the sweltering ride.

Huerta then went to see a man the coyote recommended and was given a phony green card for $60. That allowed him to get a job with health benefits at the furniture factory.

He liked the life because he worked from 6 a.m. until 3 p.m. In Tenenexpan, he works in the fields tending cattle and horses from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m.

"If you work here you can't save any money," Huerta said. "Over there, if you work hard for a year, you can buy a car. Getting over there isn't pretty, but everyone knows that."