Drug Cartels Thrive at US-Mexico Border
With US deportations at a record high, the cartels take advantage of displaced people.
The current system of immigration enforcement and deportation has led to a constant flow of displaced people on both sides of the Mexico-US border, and drug cartels are increasingly taking advantage of this vulnerable population, sourcing them for money and unpaid labor. With immigration rising, and deportations at an all-time high, dorm-style shelters are filling up on both sides of the border. And these shelters have become recruitment zones for cartels looking for drug mules, gunmen or lookouts to help with hauling drugs in to the US. In some areas, the cartels control who crosses the border and profit from each immigrant by taxing human smugglers. "This vicious circle favors organized crime because the migrant is going to pay [for safe passage]," says the Rev. Francisco Gallardo, who oversees immigrant-assistance efforts for the Matamoros Catholic diocese. There have been record numbers of deportations in recent years and already this year, tens of thousands have reportedly landed in Tamaulipas, the Mexican state that borders a swath of Texas. In March alone, the Border Patrol made more than 16,000 immigrant arrests in the Rio Grande Valley sector, a 67% increase from the same month last year, according to the agency. The Mexican government confirmed that reported murders in Tamaulipas increased more than 250% in the past four years. Threats from organized crime leaders have even led some shelters to hire multiple state and federal police officers to reside there. However, some believe that the solution to all this is not increased security, but rather regional development that will provide financially viable alternatives. Rep. Filemon Vela, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, says: "The incentive for people to cross over illegally from Mexico will never subside until these individuals feel safe and until they are able to feed themselves and their families."