Toughened U.S. border enforcement has prompted substantially more illegal immigrants to hire smugglers to help them cross over from Mexico – and competition among sophisticated criminal networks for customers has spawned violence and sometimes death, reports the Associated Press. The evidence is abundant in border boomtowns, where human traffickers rustle together flocks of immigrants for the journey north. Further evidence comes from tens of thousands of interviews of illegal border crossers in surveys by a Mexican government-funded research institution, which were analyzed by the AP.
“What was once a discretionary expense has now become a necessity,” said Jorge Santibanez, who oversaw the surveys while president of Tijuana-based El Colegio de la Frontera Norte. AP’s examination of the sweeping data found the use of smugglers on the rise among those surveyed. The interviewees were border crossers who returned to Mexico within three years or were caught and kicked out by the Border Patrol. About half of those surveyed in 2005 said they had hired a smuggler. That compared to about 1 in 3 in 2004 and just 1 in 6 in 2000.