Migrant are paying higher prices now that Mexico has stepped up security at its borders.
Asian migrants are paying up to US $40,000 to reach the United States via Mexico, according to the newspaper El Universal, while Central Americans pay between $10,000 and $12,000.
The newspaper reported that the strengthening of security at the southern and northern borders – and increased enforcement against undocumented migrants traveling through the country – has led people smugglers to move their customers not just by land but also by air and sea.
The fees they charge have increased as a result.
Migrants hoping to reach the United States from Brazil might pay a total of $12,000 to $15,000 to leave that country and secure passage to the northern border, while Mexicans hand over between $5,000 and $10,000 to smugglers to take them illegally into the U.S., El Universal said.
Human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants has become one of the most lucrative activities for organized crime, according to a 2018 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which said that the illegal trade generated profits of $7 billion in 2016.
Ricardo Ramírez Cortés, an official in the anti-human trafficking division of the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR), said that authorities have been forced to respond to the new ways in which criminals are moving migrants.
He said that earlier this year, authorities arrested members of a criminal group at the Mexico City airport who had been transporting undocumented migrants to the northern border by air.
El Universal said that authorities have also detected smuggling people to Quintana Roo by boat. After disembarking in that state, migrants cross the country to the Pacific coast and then board another vessel headed for the California coast.
United States border patrol agents detained seven migrants and two suspected people smugglers in November last year after a small panga-style boat landed at Laguna Beach, California.
Three of the migrants were Chinese nationals and four were Mexicans, the Los Angeles Times reported. One of the smugglers was a United States citizen and the other had an expired U.S. visa, the newspaper said.
In Mexico, authorities arrested 724 suspected smugglers between 2016 and 2018 but only 63 were sentenced, statistics show.
In the same period, 3,351 migrants who either paid for smugglers’ services or were kidnapped by human traffickers were rescued by authorities.
Last month, police stopped four semi-trailers in Veracruz that were carrying close to 800 undocumented migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, while last week around 150 Central and South Americans were freed from a trailer traveling in the same state.
Federal Police Inspector Marco Vargas said that people smuggling can often turn into human trafficking, pointing out that Brazilian migrants were rescued from such a situation in Tamaulipas a few weeks ago.
Both the Mexican and United States governments are working to dismantle human trafficking rings, an official in the national security department of the United States Embassy in Mexico told El Universal.
Édgar Ramírez said that multiple agencies from both countries are working closely by sharing intelligence information that allows them to identify smuggling routes and the vehicles criminals are using.
He also said that traffickers’ finances are under attack.
The Mexican government said last month that it would block the accounts and seize the assets of the company whose semi-trailers were used to transport the almost 800 migrants to the northern border.
Ramírez said that Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security in the Unites States are providing training to authorities in Mexico to help them develop their capacity to combat criminals who smuggle both people and contraband such as drugs, weapons and cash.
However, Inspector Vargas said that even shutting down borders completely wouldn’t put an end to the illicit trafficking of people and goods.
Organized crime has the ability to mutate and criminals will always seek ways to continue their activities, including the use of sea and air routes, he said.
However, since Mexico agreed to step up the enforcement of migration policy as part of an agreement with the United States, migrant arrests have increased significantly.
More than 43,000 undocumented migrants were detained in Mexico in the first 42 days after the June 7 pact was signed, according to preliminary data.
An average of 1,030 arrests per day in the period was 88% higher than that recorded between January and May when there was an average of 547 arrests per day.
Source: El Universal (sp)