Central American crime lords, gangs, and small time operators profit up to $2.3 billion moving Illegal immigrants into the United States, and collect even more from road “taxes” used by smugglers, according to a new study of the business President Trump is seeking to shut down.
Migrants, paying $3,000-$10,000 each, can choose “pay as you go” or “all-inclusive” packages that include travel from their home, not just through Mexico, said the report.
And smugglers also offer “specialized services” for children, pregnant women, and the elderly “that reduce exposure to risks and do not require extensive physical activity, such as scaling walls or extended hikes through remote terrain,” according to a new Rand Corporation report funded by the Department of Homeland Security.
The report, titled Human Smuggling and Associated Revenues shows what Washington and Mexico City are up against as they work to slow illegal immigration, one of Central America’s most profitable businesses.
Rand put a broad value on trafficking at $200 million to $2.3 billion in 2017. It estimated that over 60% of illegals pay a trafficker to get into the U.S.
What’s more, it said that taxes charged by drug lords to human traffickers using their routes into the U.S. total $30 million to $180 million.
“The wide range reflects uncertainty about the number of migrants that travel northward, their use of smugglers and the fees they pay,” said Rand.
It also noted that as the Trump administration made crossing into the U.S. more difficult, traffickers boosted their fees.
The report found such a wide variety of players in the smuggling business that it may be difficult for either the U.S. or Mexico to end.
For example, the report said that there is no dominant type of trafficker smuggling migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Instead, it is a mix of crime lords and small operators. So-called “transnational criminal organizations” are not the main players.
“We learned that human smuggling involves many different types of actors and that we could not credibly distinguish most criminal organizations’ activities and revenues from those of other actors, including ad hoc groups and independent operators, that engage in human smuggling,” said Victoria Greenfield, the report’s lead author.