The migrant smuggling economy at the U.S.-Mexico border now tops $20 billion and the cartels have made at least $2.6 billion in profit over the past 12 months just from controlling the routes illegal immigrants use, according to a Washington Times analysis.
Both amounts are up substantially from the Trump and Obama years because more people are coming to the border and because they are paying higher prices.
Mexican migrants are paying an average of $8,600 in total smuggling fees this year, according to The Washington Times’ database of smuggling cases. That’s up roughly $2,000 from 2019, the last pre-pandemic year under the Trump administration. Migrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are paying about $11,500 for the trip, up from $9,000 in 2020 and $7,900 in 2019, The Times’ data shows.
Those rates are averages across the southern border. Migrants pay a little less in parts of Texas and a little more in California.
“There’s an inflationary pressure on the number,” said Ronald Vitiello, a former chief of the Border Patrol. “Everything else being equal, things are more expensive. Employees, gasoline, logistics — things are more expensive.”