Blocking Coyote Dollars
OCTOBER 13, 2006
Officials in one border state are finally taking legal action to stop the multi-million dollar human smuggling operations that annually bring thousands of illegal aliens into the country and enrich the Mexican operatives who help them violate U.S. law.
Each year the Mexican smugglers – known as coyotes – have millions of U.S. dollars wired to them through the world’s biggest money-transfer business, Western Union, as a fee for smuggling thousands of illegal immigrants into the United States.
U.S. Government officials have known this for years and now authorities in one of the most affected states, Arizona, are taking action to end the longtime practice. The state’s Attorney General has actually blocked payments to traffickers of illegal immigrants and so far $17 million have been seized and hundreds of people have been deported.
The electronic payments – a fee of about $1,600 per border crosser – are usually wired to the Mexican state of Sonora and, besides Arizona, the funds mainly originate in California, New York and Florida. During a busy two-month period last year, $28 million was wired from the U.S. to Sonora through Western Union which has 201 authorized outlets there.
Western Union is legally challenging the money seizures, claiming that it is not responsible for the fact that legally transferred money may be part of an illegal enterprise. The company often accepts fake identifications for large cash U.S.-Mexico transfers, probably because it is common knowledge that the money will fund an illegal activity.
Immigrant right groups are also denouncing the government crackdown, saying that all Latino Western Union customers are being profiled based on their last name. One advocate from the Illinois-based Coalition for Immigrant and Refugees Rights called it a “drive-by-machine-gun approach.”
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