Coyotes: A dangerous but necessary evil

REY PEREZOSO [(CC BY-SA 2.0)] / FLICKR
How human smugglers operate as portal for migrants coming to the U.S.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that illegal immigrants will face more challenges coming into the United States — not just crossing the border, but also staying within its bounds. Trump’s agenda to build a massive wall and increase border patrol agents and his alteration of current immigration laws have caused migrants to rethink whether it’s even worth it to live in the U.S.

However, our President fails to realize that increased border patrol and the proposed building of the wall will not stop people from illegally crossing over to the U.S. For over 100 years, people from all over Mexico and South America have illegally crossed the border. The issue of immigration reform is a complicated one. How do you stop someone who will continuously keep trying to cross the border no matter the cost?

In short, you can’t. When someone is determined to go back to their family after deportation, better their life or escape the violence of their home country, they will stop at nothing to reach the U.S. In particular, people either try to cross the border on their own, or use a “coyote” — a human smuggler.

The distinction between smugglers and human traffickers is that the latter transport and sell people with the intent to force them into sex slavery or prostitution or other labor. A coyote is like a product for which people pay exorbitant prices to use their services. Prices vary from coyote to coyote and depend on the various clever modes of travel the migrant wishes to use, ranging from $4,000 all the way up to $15,000.

The use of a coyote is almost required because migrants making the trek on their own will certainly face many hardships, not to mention the risk of getting caught — or death.

Nevertheless, it’s inherently dangerous to use a coyote. There’s always the chance that migrants will get caught while crossing. In addition, there have been reported cases of people being abandoned or sold off to the cartels after paying off a coyote. For this reason, if someone does not know the coyote, that person runs the risk of not only losing their money, but also facing capture or an even worse fate.

Coyotes are a necessary evil; they’re an essential premium because without them migrants have little chance of completing their trek.

Coyotes do not see themselves as criminals because they’re simply helping people achieve their dreams of a better life. They merely act as a portal through which they help others get back to their families.

Legacy and reputation create a snowball effect that keeps attracting customers. When people use coyotes and are successful in crossing over, they pass that information along to their family and friends. For the most part, this is how most people hear about coyotes; they’re referred by others.

Coyotes are expensive because only they know how to navigate the various routes and secret passages used to cross the border. Yet it’s important to note that no smuggler owns a specific route. Instead, the cartels in Mexico control certain areas and charge smugglers a fee to cross into their territory.

Trump wants to build a wall in order to stop people from illegally coming into the U.S. Yet such action will not stop people from crossing over. Instead, all of Trump’s statements on immigration have increased the prices that smugglers charge.

The increased border protection doesn’t stop the issue at hand — which is people coming over. It just makes it so that smugglers have to get more ingenious with their routes and forces them to develop a relationship with the cartel to further ensure safety for their travels and customers. So, in a way, the building of the wall will only further line the pockets of cartels. There’s a positive relationship between U.S. spending on border protection and the prices that coyotes charge.

Our president should focus his attention on further fleshing out better immigration processes for people who wish to come to the U.S. Building the wall is not only a childish idea, it is also costly — roughly $18 billion. That money could be used for education and a wide variety of other social programs that lack necessary funding.

The way I see it, coyotes will continue to help people cross over the U.S. as long as physical borders exist. People will continue to illegally cross the border because a wall will not stop a person from achieving their dreams of a better life — it’s only a matter of time when they will cross and finally make that their reality.

 

Written by: Alejandro Lara — amlara@ucdavis.edu

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