02/22/2012 07:41 am ET

The Discrimination Chain: Is Latin America's Record On Immigration Just As Ugly?

While the plight of Latino immigrants in the United States has garnered much media attention and political debate, the suffering of those who migrate to other countries within Latin America is lesser known.

This week, a report by Telemundo highlighted the experiences of an estimated 20,000 Cuban immigrants who have left to their homes to pursue the "Andean Dream" in Ecuador in the last five years.

Cubans are commonly made to pay exorbitant "fees" in the hundreds of dollars when passing through Ecuadorean Customs and are sometimes charged thousands of dollars in "processing charges" to obtain legal papers, according to Telemundo's report. Like undocumented immigrants in the United States, many undocumented Cubans also live in fear of deportation in Ecuador, according to the report.

The perpetuation of an immigrant underclass is by no means a new trend in Latin America. Like Cubans in Ecuador, advocates maintain that Dominicans face discrimination in Puerto Rico, Central Americans in Mexico, and Uruguayans in Argentina, and many other minority groups in other Latin American nations.

After touring Mexico in 2008, the top UN advocate for migrant rights proclaimed that "the impunity with which Mexico victimizes Central American immigrants makes it the principal violator of human rights on the American continent," according to a report by the Chicago Tribune.

Central Americans in Mexico, like Mexicans who come to the United States, face increased risks of extortion, kidnapping, violence as gangs and drug cartels have found migrant trafficking a lucrative activity. In August of 2010, in one of the worst nearly 72 migrants, most of who were Central American, were slaughtered in the border state of Tamaulipas.

When Mexican president Felipe Calderon took a strong stance on migrant rights in the United States in 2008, he was accused of hypocrisy from some U.S. politicians.

"Mexico expends enormous resources to prevent Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans from entering the country illegally, but you castigate the United States for wanting secure borders. Mr. President, in my neighborhood that is called hypocrisy," Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo. wrote to Calderon.

The award-winning 2009 film 'Sin Nombre' depicts the horrors of the infamous train that carries Central Americans through Mexico on their way to the United States. The protagonist, a young Honduran woman, risks her life on the Tren de la Muerte or the 'Train of Death'.

Sayra's father says to her they must make the dangerous journey through Mexico because there is "nothing left for them" in their homeland.

WATCH: 'Sin Nombre' Trailer