by Jason Hopkins
Research estimates how much human smugglers make from transporting illegal migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border, revealing just how profitable the industry has become amid the current immigration crisis.
Human traffickers made anywhere from $200 million to $2.3 billion in 2017 from smuggling migrants to the U.S., according to a study by the Rand Corporation and commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security. The study, titled Human Smuggling and Associated Revenues, sought to uncover more details about the revenue made by the transnational criminal organizations that bring individuals from Central America over to the U.S.-Mexico.
The report found that the majority of illegal immigration to the U.S. is fueled by criminal organizational efforts, with more than 60% of illegal migrants estimated to be paying a human trafficker for help.
Migrants will pay anywhere from $3,000 to over $11,000 in smuggling fees, depending on what type of route and service they request. Customers are given an array of choices for their journey, such as more expensive routes that are safer and less physically demanding, or routes that are cheaper, but more dangerous and taxing to cross.
“[U]nlawful migrants generally are required to pay taxes, or pisos, to drug- trafficking [organizations] along the U.S.-Mexico border for the right to pass through their territory, either directly or through human smugglers,” the study noted. Many drug traffickers allow migrants to use their routes for a price.
Reports on the migrant smuggling industry come as the border crisis continues to escalate. Border Patrol agents apprehended nearly 133,000 illegal migrants in May, marking the third consecutive month where apprehensions topped 100,000. The U.S. government has apprehended over half a million illegal migrants in the 2019 fiscal year.
The booming human trafficking business is well-known among immigration enforcement officials. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan testified in Congress on Tuesday about how prevalent human smuggling advertisements are in Central America.
“They advertise it. They promote it,” McAleenan said of the industry. “It’s ubiquitous in Central America – advertisements on radio, advertisements on social media. … This is a very well-known fact.”
Missouri GOP Sen. Josh Hawley framed the situation in more stark terms during the committee hearing.
“We’ve heard it said that crossing across the southern border is an ‘act of love,’ but for the cartels, it’s an opportunity for exploitation of children. It’s an opportunity to cash in,” Hawley, a junior senator, said on Tuesday. “It is about profit. It is about money. It’s about their criminal enterprise.”
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Jason Hopkins is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation. Follow Jason on Twitter.