Human Smuggling and Trafficking on the U.S./Mexican Border
Like any other border between two sizable countries, The U.S.-Mexico border is very complex and remains frequently the topic of debate. One facet of this complex space is the crossing of international boundaries by humans illegally. The basis of this web page is to not only inform, but educate viewers on the issues of who is smuggled, why they are smuggled, and who does the smuggling. A look into each of these components will give one a basic understanding of a small portion of the complex U.S.-Mexico border.
Undocumented Mexican immigrants cross the U.S/Mexican border illegally to start a new life and/or reunite with their family, but due to border enforcement they have to turn to human smuggling for help. Specifically, here we focus on women and children.
The border has a history of human smuggling to reunite families. Its changes continue to unify them. “What have varied across time and place is the degree, nature, methods, and organization of such smuggling. In the case of crossing the U.S.-Mexican border, this has ranged from self-smuggling (i.e., migrants illegally crossing the border without hiring the services of a professional smuggler), to local-level individual smuggling entrepreneurs (the traditional “coyotes”), to highly organized and sophisticated transnational smuggling networks (often specializing in the smuggling of non-Mexicans across the border – such as Chinese and Central Americans).” (Kyle & Koslowski, 2001) These range from playing the Cat & Rat game to shifting migrant flows from the west coast to the east coast.
After being smuggled across the U.S./Mexican border, many undocumented Mexican immigrant women wanted to have babies in the United States to avoid getting deported back to Mexico. In the Associated Press, Stephen White, lawyer to Oscar Antonio Ortiz, a border patrol agent, said that Ortiz’s mother obtained a fake birth certificate for him. Undocumented Mexican immigrants benefit from this because they are able to send money home to support their family members and smuggle them to the U.S., “Many Mexican mothers prefer to come across the border to have their children born on U.S. soil and ensure them access to the “American dream.” (Payan, 2006)
Mothers who make no contact with their children have children immigrating north to find them and reunite with them. In the book, “Enrique’s Journey” written by Sonia Nazario about a teenage boy named Enrique, at eleven he went on a journey north to find his mother. He did not have any guidance. He might have a picture of his mother which is what a priest at the Texas shelter said most children who get caught would have. His mother is somewhere in the United States, “Immigrants cluster geographically in a small number of cities and states.” (Williams, 2004) He is risking his life to find his mother. Children come from as far as Central America also. It is more dangerous for him to find his mother because he speaks and looks different. He is not Mexican, which is harder for him to find and hire a smuggler to get him across. This is why most children have “ to cling to the sides and tops of freight trains.” Children die because they try to avoid getting caught by Mexican police, but fall from the train. Others die being smuggled through the desert where hot and cold temperature rise in the summer and the winter.
Children who still have contact with their mothers get smuggled into the United States because their families were able to borrow money to pay the smugglers. Mary DeLorey?, a strategic issues adviser for Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' international relief and development agency, said that children get transported to the U.S./Mexican border in busloads to be smuggled.
In the Associated Press reported by Amanda Lee Myers, M.S. Median said that mothers reunite with their children through U.S. citizen or residence aid of pretending to be the child’s mother and use their own children’s birth certificate to pass undocumented immigrant children. However, more and more women are being persecuted for smuggling children across the U.S/Mexican border.
Left behind: Amid immigration debate, children often are forgotten
Women Serve Prison Terms for Child Smuggling at Mexican - U.S. Border Women with Pity Sent to Prison for Child Smuggling
A boy's odyssey to find the mother he loves
Kyle, David & Koslowski, Rey. (2001) Global Human Smuggling Comparative Perspectives. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Payan, Tony. (2006). The Three U.S.-Mexican Border Wars. Westport: Tony Payan.
Dudley, William. (2002) Illegal Immigration Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven Press
William, E. Mary. (2004). Immigration Opposing Viewpoints. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven Press.
Chacon, Justin Akers & Davis, Mike. (2006). No One Is Illegal Fighting Violence and State Repression on the U.S.-Mexico Border. Chicago: Joe Klein/Zuma Press.
Nazario, Sonia. (2006) “A boy's odyssey to find the mother he loves.” Enrique’s Journey. MSNBC.com
News & Articles
Elliot Spagat, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. "Border agent gets 5 years as smuggler Corruption case shines spotlight on Border Patrol's hiring practices.; [Third Edition]".St. Louis Post - Dispatch. St. Louis, Mo.: Jul 29, 2006.pg.A.25
Angela Woodall. Oakland Tribune. "Woman's deportation protested in Fruitvale." Oakland, Calif.: Aug 22, 2007. pg. 1
Slavery no longer exists.
Thousands of men, women and children are moved across borders either against their will or under false pretenses for the purpose of either sexual exploitation or forced labor. These are the victims of modern day slavery. They are almost always hidden, nameless, faceless, and voiceless.
Human Trafficking is not that big of a problem.
Though it is difficult to find accurate statistics regarding this issue, the U.S. government says at least 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year. It is thought that somewhere between 18,000 and 20,000 people are trafficked across the U.S. / Mexican border. Though law enforcement and activists strive to bring an end to this problem, a solution is difficult to find due to the secrecy and corruption that surrounds the issue.
Human Trafficking is the same thing as Migrant Smuggling.
Migrant Smuggling involves consenting immigrants who are aided in crossing the border by a guide often referred to as a "coyote" for a fee. In contrast, human trafficking can cross borders or occur within a state. Also, the victims of trafficking do NOT consent. Although they may have originally agreed to a deal, the actions of the traffickers and the outcome of the situation render any initial consent meaningless.
The victims of human trafficking can "just walk away" form their situation.
Victims are often held captive by both physical and mental means. Abuse, and assault are used to keep the victims quiet and in a constant state of fear. Traffickers often make threats not only about what will happen to the vicitims if they try to leave, but also what will happen to their families.
Trafficking on the U.S./Mexican Border
...Stories and Links
For more info -> Slavery Without Borders: Human Trafficking in the U.S.-Mexican Context:
Facts about Human Trafficking from the U.S. Department of State:
Excerpt from Guillermo Contreras' article entitled, "Details emerge in human trafficking case in San Antonio" illustrates a typical sex trafficking scenario:
How's $600 to buy what you'd like simply for accompanying men on trips? We can make it happen, al otro lado — on the other side. That pitch allegedly made by a trio of women sounded like gold to some impressionable teens and a young woman not making much in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Three girls agreed to be smuggled to the United States in mid-May and once they were in or near San Antonio, they were primped, new clothes were bought for them and they were given English lessons. Their understanding was that they did not have to have sex with the men.
But rather than the glitz they were promised, they were sold in an underground world for prostitution, according to prosecutors and documents filed in federal court Friday. The girls were delivered to a man in San Antonio referred to in court records as the "boss," who had them strip, inspected their bodies and told them they were going to be having sex with men for up to five years to pay off their smuggling debt. The "boss" said he had paid $3,000 apiece for two of the girls and said he would pay even more to get them ready for other men, witnesses told investigators, according to their statements. Anyone who fled would die, and their families would also suffer the same fate, the statements said. - HTUSAMX
Excerpt from "Rosa's Story: The High Price Of Human Trafficking":
Her name is Rosa and she was just 13 years old when her life changed forever. She went from being a young waitress in a small Mexican village to being held captive as a prostitute and a slave.
It all started when a family acquaintance told Rosa that she could make ten times as much money waiting tables in the U.S. as she could in her small village. It sounded like an offer that was too good to be true -- she could make enough money to send some back to her family, and if she got homesick, she could just pick up and come home.
Rosa's parents were skeptical, but she was persistent. Against the wishes of her family and friends, she agreed to make the journey to America in hope of a better life.
Rosa and several young girls were driven across the border, and then continued the rest of the way on foot. They traveled four days and nights through the desert, making their way into Texas, then crossing east toward Florida.
Finally, Rosa and the other girls arrived at their destination, a rundown trailer where they would be put to work. Rosa was told that she would be forced to work as a prostitute. For a young girl like Rosa, this was a nightmare -- but as she soon realized, she had to do what she was told or else.
Rosa was gang-raped and locked up like a prisoner, until she agreed to do what she was told. She lived under 24-hour watch and was forced to engage in sexual relations with up to 30 men a day. When she got pregnant, she was forced to have an abortion, then sent back to work the next day.
Soon, this innocent girl had become a tragic young woman with several sexually transmitted diseases, broken bones that hadn't healed properly, and an addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Rosa finally made her escape from the brothel, but her ordeal was not over. She was arrested and locked in jail, the same as her captors. She was treated like a criminal instead of a victim.
My corrido based on Rosa's Story:
CNN's Anderson Cooper Explores Smuggling and Trafficking on the Border:
A web resource for combating human trafficking:
Legislation about human trafficking-> VICTIMS OF TRAFFICKING AND VIOLENCE PROTECTION ACT OF 2000:
Trailer from the film "Trade":
My poster for AMST1905:
Evolution of Coyotes
1 : a buff-gray to reddish-gray North American canid (Canis latrans) closely related to but smaller than the wolf
2 : one who smuggles immigrants into the United States.
Based on the definition given by Merriam-Webster
“A person who illegally smuggles people across borders of countries.”
Based on a definition given on Urbandictionary.com
The term coyote is a noun and is translated relatively the same between academic communities as someone who illegally leads a group into another land.
Since the beginning of humankind, there have been people who could easily fit the description of the ‘coyote’. Any head of household that proved as a guide to help his family move from one area to the next in search of food, resources, or political acceptance clearly represent the foundation of who the ‘coyote’ is. Although borders did not always rule on whether or not one was illegal, the principle of guidance is clear. Over time certain heads of household began to excel in what they did and assumed the role as the guide for the whole community. This shift would mark the beginning of many changes in who the ‘coyote’ was and how well one knew them.
As time passed, those who had become specialist in their respective towns as guides would either lose business or would realize that their market was very minimal. Seeking more, the ‘coyote’ began to shift from once living among the people where a bond had been created to finding people who desire to cross illegally. For many business boomed as a steadily growing market became at their fingertips. Similar to the effect of the industrial revolution, mass production to maximize profit led to the downfall of personalization and safety. No longer was the ‘coyote’ motivated by insuring the safety of his loved one, but now solely on money.
Capitalism in its purest form began to transform this once self-made business by bringing in big players from both sides of the border. These monopolies formed bought out many of the once self reliable ‘coyotes’ and left little room for independent business. For these independent ‘coyotes’ their role has almost come full circle as much of their business now comes from their home and surrounding towns through word of mouth. As for the players in charge of many of these large scale smuggling rings, money is the motive as a decrease in personalization made safety a non factor. Soon other issues began to blossom in this arena as trafficking and drug smuggling have made being a ‘coyote’ full time job. As quoted from Michele Paradis “The smugglers themselves are not the least bit concerned for the safety of the migrants at all. They're only concerned about one thing, and one thing only, and that's the amount of money they can make.”
The future of the ‘coyote’ will remain dependent on the times. As technology advances and an increase in the presence of border security continues to occur, the ‘coyote’ will once again have to adapt. As a result of making it harder for an immigrant to cross some believe, such as Victor Clark, that “This is going to have the opposite effect of what the U.S. government wants, since the demand for migrant smugglers is going to go up.” Unless mass change occurs in border legislature, the ‘coyote’ will never go extinct as various pull factors continue to make crossing the border worthwhile for many people.
Websites demonstrating the impact of the Coyote today
USA TODAY article: Border crackdown fuels smugglers' boom on U.S.-Mexico line
By Elliot Spagat, Associated Press
San Francisco Chronicle: Mexican drug cartels move into human smuggling
David Francis, Chronicle Foreign Service
"The Evolution of the Coyote" poster
-- Main.mbc - 12 Apr 2008 *