Human smugglers in Mexico are now charging Central American migrants up to $9,000 each as increased border security makes crossing more difficult. Some of the fee is paid to Mexican cartels while other parts are paid to local smugglers near the border and along the route.
In the recent past, migrants would pay approximately $1,500 each to human smugglers to get into the U.S. Now, that fee has skyrocketed to as much as $9,000, according to a report by KTSM NBC9 in El Paso.
“They were paying something like $1,500 as early as 24 months ago. Now they’re charging them $8,000 to $9,000. It’s gone up with the demand, and it’s usually paid upfront,” El Paso Sector Spokesman Fidel Baca told the local NBC affiliate.
The upfront fee means the smugglers no longer need to worry about whether the migrants make their way successfully to their U.S. destination of choice — or even if they make it alive.
Baca explained that the average fee in the El Paso region is about $3,000 per person.
“In Lordsburg, (New Mexico), we just caught a large group of 200. Do the math ($600,000) and you see they make pretty good money,” Baca continued. “And really all they have to do is take them down to the border and tell them which way to walk. Most times, they (the smugglers) don’t even want to run the risk of getting apprehended by us.”
Former El Paso Sector Chief Patrol Agent Victor Manjarrez, Jr., who now serves as associate director for the Center for Law and Human Behavior at the University of Texas at El Paso, told KTSM that increased border security and improvements to barriers making crossing more difficult — resulting in the increased smuggling fees to human smuggling gangs and cartels.
“Gangs are going to charge you more because it’s more difficult to get across. And now, since requesting asylum is also more difficult, they’re starting to ‘guarantee’ you’ll get across no matter what. It might not be true, but that’s what they’re selling,” Manjarrez explained. “My experience is that, in the past 35 years, profit margins never go down for human smuggling.”
“It’s interesting how this has evolved over the years. Cartels in South Texas have always kind of dabbled in immigrant smuggling. Here, in the (El Paso-Juarez) area, not so much beyond selling the right to pass-through,” the former sector chief continued. “Now it’s a growing trend to see cartels and street-level gangs turn to human smuggling because it’s profitable and less risky than smuggling narcotics. If your drugs are seized, there’s no profit. If your migrants are apprehended, they already paid you upfront.”
Recently, Del Rio Sector Border Patrol agents rescued a group of migrants who had been abandoned by their smugglers on a ranch near Eagle Pass, Texas. One of the migrants became unresponsive during the rescue effort and eventually died from exposure to the 100-plus degree heat, Breitbart Texas reported.
Tucson Sector agents encountered a similar situation last week when they rescued a group of ten migrants who were abandoned in the Arizona desert for ten days -six of those without water.
So far this year, at least 255 migrants have died while, or shortly after illegally crossing the border from Mexico into the United States, according to the International Organization for Migrants’ Missing Migrants Project. Nearly ten percent of those deaths occurred in the El Paso Sector.
So far this fiscal year, El Paso Sector Border Patrol agents apprehended approximately 167,395 migrants. This includes 124,873 family units, 15,350 unaccompanied minors, and 27,172 single adults.
If Baca’s estimates on the $3,000 average smuggling fee is correct, this means the smugglers collected more than $500 million in fees — just in the El Paso Sector. Extrapolated out nationally, that number soars to nearly $2.3 billion.