Law enforcement is beginning to identify that human smuggling is a real crisis in the US and how to address the issue and understand its complexity and diversity.
In the mid-1990s, non US citizens accounted for about 80 percent of convicted smugglers. Reportedly, nowadays, more than 60 percent of the people convicted of human smuggling are US citizens, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Usually, Americans can get past Border Patrol checkpoints easier after entering the United States.
Dr. Alex del Carmen is an associate Dean and Professor in the School of Criminology, Criminal Justice and Strategic Studies at Tarleton University. He said preliminary data doesn't give law enforcement a typology on what a human smuggler looks like.
"The criminal act does not discriminate. And, then we have individuals that are foreigners. The cartel is real. The cartel does damage the United States and they have brought in a lot of drugs and a lot of undocumented individuals to the US, but so are US citizens that are engaged in criminal activity, as well," said del Carmen.
He said just like in the 80s with people making a quick buck from drugs, the realization of how much money can be made smuggling illegal immigrants into the US can be tempting and is a crime of opportunity.
"Men and women, young people, older people, people from different backgrounds, different states, it doesn't have to be a Texan or someone that lives in a border state," said del Carmen.
He said some criminals are truckers, others white collar workers, even high school students.
Del Carmen said victims tend to have no ties to the community, are forced into labor and work that pays less than minimum wage, they look like they're trying to tell you something but can't, some are doing behind the scenes work like sketchy massage parlors.
He added don't stereotype people. Instead, understand the issues and sometimes, politicians have it wrong.