FEBRUARY 14, 2007
The competition among Mexican human smugglers is so fierce that large portions of the U.S. border have been transformed into crime-infested corridors where gunfire and murder are commonplace.
Armed rival smugglers, known as coyotes, often fight each other for the human cargo of immigrants that pays thousands of dollars to elude the Border Patrol en route to entering the United States illegally.
In the last few weeks alone, there were four incidents in which Mexican gunmen used lethal force to kidnap illegal immigrants from their smugglers and U.S. officials say the violence is on the rise. In one of the incidents just last week, three people were killed north of Tucson Arizona and Mexico’s president was quick to blame anti-immigrant discrimination in the U.S. for the ruthless crimes.
The reality is that Mexican nationals are responsible for the escalation in the violence and the deaths of their own countrymen. The kidnappings, known by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials as “rip-offs,” are quite common because they can be very lucrative for the Mexican smugglers, who collect ransoms ranging from $1,200 to $2,500 per person.
Arizona, the busiest illegal entry point on the southern border, is the leader in Mexican smuggling rip-offs and ICE agents have investigated 60 cases in the last few months alone. Sometimes rival smugglers steal illegal immigrant clients just feet from the Arizona border and deadly violence ensues.
Crime among rival smugglers has existed for years, but lately it has escalated to the point where U.S. officials fear for American lives. One lengthy Phoenix magazine story published three years ago provides incredible details about the sophistication of these smuggling rings and the huge amounts of money that are at stake.
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