HomeNewsBriefUnauthorized Migration Is Worth Billions for LatAm Organized Crime
BRIEF

Unauthorized Migration Is Worth Billions for LatAm Organized Crime

HUMAN SMUGGLING / 4 MAY 2017 BY LEONARDO GOI EN

Experts say unauthorized migration generates billions of dollars for criminal groups in Latin America, earnings that are set to grow as a result of tightening US immigration policies.

Human smuggling from Latin America into the United States accounts for an estimated $7 billion in revenues for organized crime groups in the region, Felipe de la Torre, an official from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), told Crónica.

The figure was calculated by taking into account the migratory flows along the US border, as well as the fees charged by the so-called "coyotes" or "polleros," traffickers who help people to enter the United States without authorization.

An estimated 57 percent of undocumented Mexican migrants repatriated by US authorities had relied on traffickers to enter the United States, according to the UNODC. In the case of migrants from other Central American countries, the figure reaches a staggering 70 percent.

Yet the coyotes are only one of several actors that migrants must pay to cross the border. For instance, a report from the International Crisis Group found that some smugglers have been subjugated by local organized crime groups. Coyotes and their clients must pay up to $1,000 in protection fees to these criminal networks; those who fail to pay are kidnapped. 

In addition, a Mexican non-profit organization quoted in the study said that 20 percent of 31,000 migrants surveyed reported "crimes at the hands of authorities, including robbery, extortion, beatings and illegal detentions."

Among the pillars of his campaign, US President Donald Trump vowed to step up the fight against crime in the United States by increasing deportations of undocumented migrants, and building a wall along the border with Mexico.

During the first three months of Trump's presidency, there was an increase in immigration-related arrests and a decrease in deportations compared to the same period last year. The administration's promise to embrace a more heavy-handed approach to undocumented migration has sparked debate over the effectives of stricter border controls.

InSight Crime Analysis

The tougher immigration policies championed by the Trump administration are likely to fortify criminal networks looking to profit from the large numbers of undocumented migrants trying to enter the United States. 

To be sure, criminal groups in Mexico have kidnapped and extorted migrants trying to cross the US border for years. And the number of Central American migrants arrested and deported by Mexican authorities had been increasing before President Trump assumed office.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Smuggling

President Trump's promise to step up the fight against undocumented migrants and build a wall along the US-Mexico border is likely to exacerbate these trends, driving more migrants into the hands of organized crime groups based in Mexico, and thus generating even greater revenues for criminal networks seeking to profit from human smuggling and trafficking.

"As patrol operations along the border become tougher, smuggling routes become more dangerous, and migrants have to pay more as a result," de la Torre told Crónica, adding that the $7 billion the UNODC estimates in revenues for organized crime groups may be a conservative figure. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COSTA RICA / 15 JAN 2021

Recent interceptions linked to the illicit smuggling of migrants at Nicaragua’s border with Costa Rica have illustrated the extent to…

CRIMINAL MIGRATION / 19 JUL 2022

Amid El Salvador's brutal anti-gang crackdown, one top MS13 leader was escorted out of the country by a government official.

FEATURED / 29 APR 2021

Methamphetamine use in Mexico has grown exponentially in recent years and now rivals marijuana as the drug most cited by…

About InSight Crime

WORK WITH US

Open Position: Full Stack WordPress Developer

28 NOV 2022

As Full Stack WordPress Developer You Will: Work collaboratively with other developers and designers to maintain and improve organizational standards.Demonstrate a high level of attention to detail, and implement best…

THE ORGANIZATION

Join Us This #GivingTuesday in Exposing Organized Crime

24 NOV 2022

For over twelve years, InSight Crime has contributed to the global dialogue on organized crime and corruption. Our work has provided policymakers, analysts, academics, journalists, and the general public with…

THE ORGANIZATION

Like Crime, Our Coverage Knows No Borders

18 NOV 2022

The nature of global organized crime means that while InSight Crime focuses on Latin America, we also follow criminal dynamics worldwide. InSight Crime investigator Alessandro Ford covers the connections between Latin American and European…

THE ORGANIZATION

Using Data to Expose Crime

11 NOV 2022

Co-director Jeremy McDermott made a virtual presentation at a conference hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The ‘Sixth International Conference on Governance, Crime, and Justice…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime ON AIR

4 NOV 2022

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley was interviewed for the podcast The Rosenberg Case: A Tale of Murder, Corruption, and Conspiracy in Guatemala, which explores the potential involvement of then president, Álvaro Colom,…