Mexican drug lords are taking over the business of smuggling immigrants into the U.S., using them as decoys to divert authorities from billions of dollars in cocaine shipments across the same border, the Associated Press reports. U.S. and Mexican law-enforcement officials said that drug traffickers, in response to a U.S. border crackdown, seized control of routes they once shared with human smugglers. Drug gangs get protection money from immigrants and then use them to clear the trail for the flow of drugs.
Undocumented immigrants are used “to maneuver where they want us or don’t want us to be,” said Alonzo Pena, chief of investigations for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Arizona. The advent of drug-trafficking extortionists along the border may be responsible for much of the drop in illegal immigration that U.S. officials have attributed more directly to better enforcement.