HomeNewsAnalysis'Mexico's Human Smugglers are Raising Prices Because of Trump'

'Mexico's Human Smugglers are Raising Prices Because of Trump'


Undocumented immigration involves a series of deals between Central American coyotes and Mexicans. One coyote from El Salvador complains that his colleagues on the northern Mexican border are looking to double their income as a reaction to US President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

The arrival of President Donald Trump has not been good for business of this Salvadoran "coyote," or human smuggler. He has more than five years of experience bringing people through Mexico into the United States without anyone’s permission. “The same migrants spread the word and get scared” he complains. But for him, in undocumented immigration, Trump will be like a freight train, impermanent. Not so for his colleagues to the north.

“This is going to pass. There is always noise or a new law for the people. Later on it turns back to more or less the same”, he said during the week of Trump’s inauguration.

This article was translated, edited for length and clarity and published with the permission of El Faro. It does not necessarily represent the views of InSight Crime. See the Spanish original here.

This is a full “coyote,” of which there are Few remain. Some “coyotes”, whom they called travelers, are of the most common lineage of this breed. They are the ones that travel with the undocumented. The guides of the path. Some travel until the Mexico-Guatemala border, or until Mexico City, to turn over their clients over to Mexican “coyotes”, who then take them to the northern border. Others venture across Mexico. These are the travelers. There are also senior coyotes who “coyote” without leaving their home. They are travelers, but not anymore. They built a line- as they say in their jargon, the chain of contacts with immigration agencies, police and organized crime- and they activate it telephonically each time they send their travelers out with clients. But this “coyote” is a traveler and a senior. Still traveling, like when in the middle of 2016 he traveled with a family fleeing from gangs, to avoid risks for the travelers. But he almost always coordinates. He is a traveler and a senior.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of the US-Mexico Border

He is a “coyote” from western El Salvador who asks for anonymity because what he does is a crime that can earn him up to eight years in prison. Granted anonymity, the “coyote” spoke for over two hours this past January.

Each week he travels throughout the country trying to convince potential clients or ease the doubts of the mother of the young girl who will make the journey. And of course, to agree to a rate.

The rates of “coyotes” do not work like a government tax. It is not a fixed amount, but a “more or less” or “around”. In 2014 for example, when 64,000 Central Americans entered the United States without visas, the fair was roughly $7,000 to get to the city of choice. In 2017, with Trump in power and his promise to build a wall along the 2,100 km unprotected border, the same service goes for around $8,000.

And now, again, the charge is increasing. Little by little. Thanks to Trump.

“With all this that they have reinforced the border, the northern “coyotes”, on the border, are increasing… because of Trump”, said the coyote.

The border between the United States and Mexico is 3,150 km- the distance between El Salvador and the heart of the Brazilian Amazon. Along a little more than 1,000 km of this border there is something that looks like a wall: barriers like those on Normandy, steel beams that form colossal asterisks and impede vehicle crossings, but not of people; there are also metal plates made from recycled material from the Gulf War and Vietnam; and there are a few zones, like Tijuana, where there is a WALL in capital letters: bars that stand almost five meters high between bars that don’t go over the head of a child, crowned with metal mesh. The wall, remember, is a concept: wall, yes, but also movement sensors and night vision cameras and monitoring centers and drones. But Trump has said to wall it all off- as if in some places, like Marfa, the desert isn’t sufficient. In addition he has said he will contract five thousand more border patrol agents on top of the 20,000 that already exist. And he has caused panic among some, and this Salvadoran coyote has resented this panic.

In this chain a coyote that moves his clients needs three things: 1. a police officer or agent from the Mexican International Institute of Migration who is selling. Normally this agent will tell you when he is on duty at a migratory vehicle checkpoint. The coyote agrees to a price for his clients and the agent lets them pass without a problem. “In Mexico you can buy this with a few pesos,” he said. 2. Then comes the difficult part: “find an in with the cartel.” Normally one can get this in from a senior coyote who works along the US border and has relations with Los Zetas or El Cartel del Golfo and receives the clients from the Salvadoran coyote. 3. This Mexican coyote will find this in and at the same time supply the third necessity of the Salvadoran coyote: cross the US border with his immigrants, and bring them, if they pay him, to the city they choose. The Mexican coyote charges for these final services. The Salvadoran charges for the part until that point and, of course, for the contact with the northern coyote and the corruption of the Mexican government official.

For this reason, the chain cannot separate. Without a Salvadoran coyote there is Central American client. Without a Mexican coyote there is neither safe travel to the border nor crossing to the United States.

These final coyotes, those from the north, those who according to the Salvadoran coyote are trying to modify tariffs, are using Trump and his wall as excuses.

“Before it was $3,000 from Reynosa (the Mexican side of the border) to Houston. Since January of this year, (the “coyotes”) are asking for $5,000: $1,000 at the Mexican side; $1,000 in McAllen (the US side of the border) and $3,000 before the arrival in Houston,” said the Salvadoran.

On one hand, complains the coyote, it cost more to find clients in the first few days of the Trump presidency because there are people who have an argument rooted in the news: “For December I had a person already guaranteed to travel. But he backed out on me before leaving. This person was going to ask for a loan from a family member in the US to make up for what the part of the fair he was missing, but he told me “to owe $2,000 to a cousin just so this crazy old man can kick me out. I’m not leaving.”

On the other hand, the rise in fairs of the northern coyotes with whom he works has closed possibilities for finding clients in the first place. “If before it was $8,000 to Houston, now I am charging $9,500 or $10,000 to cover their charge, but with this charge they only walk seven hours and we can’t bring more than five people. And now if they arrive in Houston and want to be moved to Los Angeles, they have to pay $1,500 more there.”

There are those who are offering the service for around $7,500, says the coyote, however he cannot imagine how they can guarantee security. He explains that when he charged $8,000, the fair was divided like this: two thousand to arrive in Reynosa, including deals with police in Guatemala and Mexico, “cartel fair of $300 for each migrant” transportation, accommodation, food; $3,000 (before it rose in January to $5,000) to the northern coyotes for them to take over from Reynosa to Houston; and $1,000 for the Salvadoran coyote. This left a profit of $2,000 per migrant for the senior coyote. “To do this for less doesn’t work”, he said. For this reason he doesn’t know which line those who charge $7,500 are working with these days.

If the first trip doesn’t work, what has the coyote lived these past few months? “I’m taking six journeys a month. I have to deliver on all”, he responded.

The Salvadoran violence that has made the country the most murderous since 2015 has been a life-saver for the coyote. These are migrants that want to move and ask for refuge. The short service, as they call it, does not imply an arrival in Houston, but to Reynosa. There, the senior northern coyote will explain to the migrant how to cross by the migrant bridge and ask for refuge in the US migrant offices. Or, if there are many guards on the Mexican side in this area or there isn’t much corruption contact, they will try to cross in a border area where they will be detained by the border patrol after a few steps. For this service they charge around $4,000 in actuality, because they lose the $3,000- now $5,000- that the northern coyotes charge to enter Houston without permission.

This coyote, who was an undocumented migrant as well, has seen the Mexico of massacres of migrants as well as the crisis of the children of 2014 as well as the arrival of Trump. According to him, migration will not stop, but the coyotes will take advantage of Trump or the wall or any other thing to make a better business.

“And maybe everything stays the same there at the border, but those bastards (the northern coyotes) will take advantage of any rumor”, said the coyote from El Salvador. 

*This article was translated, edited for length and clarity and published with the permission of El Faro. It does not necessarily represent the views of InSight Crime. See the Spanish original here.

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