As the flow of illegal immigration across the Arizona border slows during the Christmas season, federal authorities fear an increase in violence toward undocumented immigrants by smuggling gangs trying to make up for a cut in profits, reports the Arizona Republic. “There are less loads this time of year during the holidays, so there is a higher preponderance to commit violence to generate revenue either by charging higher prices or by ripping off someone else’s load to hold them for ransom,” said Roberto Medina of the U.S. Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Federal authorities are struggling to keep up with the increase in violence related to the smuggling trade.
Increasingly, federal authorities say, smugglers are holding migrants hostage to extort more money after the migrants have already paid their smuggling fees. Gangs known as bajadores also are stealing migrants from smugglers, then holding them for their own ransoms. Since March 2003, ICE agents in Arizona have responded to more than 250 hostage incidents involving undocumented immigrants. Though the overall number of hostage incidents is down, violence is up.