Human Cargo: Smugglers Cash In on Border Surge

The surge of migrants and unaccompanied children flooding across the southern border has not only raised safety, health and humanitarian concerns, but it's also enriching criminal cartels and human smuggling operations. "No young child travels the course of Mexico to get to and cross our border without the assistance of cartels, and oftentimes it involves human trafficking," says Gov. Greg Abbott. "I think it's horrific that young children are being enticed into human trafficking, with lord knows what may be happening to them along the way."

The Rio Grande Sector of the border in South Texas is one of the prime hot spots for human smugglers, with about 200 feet of water covering the border, surrounded by lush vegetation. Journalists covering the area in the past even referred to it as a "Smuggler's Paradise." That sector is likely an even bigger paradise for the cartels now, with 97,000 apprehensions there since October, a 147% increase over the same period last year.

Reporters covering the crisis at the border report migrants are given colored wristbands by smugglers, to categorize them based on nationality and trafficking value. "They're paying $2,500 for a Mexican, $5,000 for an African, and $9,000 or $10,000 for Middle Eastern, Arab or Chinese," says Todd Benmsan, national security fellow with the Center for Immigration Studies. "So they're making a fortune off of this."

Human smuggling from Central America to the U.S. was already a multi-billion dollar industry before the current crisis. Bensman predicts it will only get worse now, thanks to the Biden administration's policies. "When you tell the world that you'll take everybody in an orderly way, the world is going to come," he tells KTRH. "That is going to empower the Mexican cartels, financially and in every other possible way."

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