Mexican drug cartels and their vast network of associates have branched out from their traditional business of narcotics trafficking and are playing a central role in the multibillion-dollar-a-year business of illegal immigrant smuggling, U.S. law enforcement officials and other experts tell the Los Angeles Times. The business of smuggling humans across the Mexican border has always been brisk, with many thousands coming across every year.
Smugglers affiliated with the cartels have taken the enterprise to a new level — and made it more violent — by commandeering much of the operation from independent coyotes. U.S. efforts to stop the cartels have been stymied by a shortage of funds and the failure of federal law enforcement agencies to collaborate effectively with one another, their local and state counterparts and the Mexican government, officials say. U.S. authorities have long focused their efforts on the cartels’ trafficking of cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamines.