Monday, March 23, 2009

Mexican Drug Cartels Expand into Human Trafficking

Federal and state officials are alarmed not only by the drug wars on the Mexican side of the border, but also its spill over into the U.S. Most U.S. border cities have not seen anything like the level of the violence in their neighbors across the border . But southern Arizona is the exception. Drug-related violence is beginning to plague Tucson and Phoenix. (See New York Times article.) And the violence is not staying on the border but drifting northward as far as Boston and Canada.

Another trend disturbing to law enforcement officials is the expansion of the cartels into human smuggling. In the past they might have demanded tribute from independent coyotes for passing across their drug-smuggling turf. Now that the crack down at the border has made passage for both drugs and people difficut, and so the cartels are looking for new sources of income and are crowding out "your friendly local coyote". The shift has been very bad for the immigrant. Now journeying northward he/she may have to back-pack marijuana. Rival gangs may hijack shipments of "chickens", as they call immigrants. Fees are exorbitant and in "safe houses" in Tucson or Phoenix the immigrant will be held hostage, beaten, raped and not released till families back home send more money. Taking a lesson from Asian and Eastern European flesh smugglers, immigrants might be held in peonage and virtual slavery. Women are sent into prostitution. Federal and state law enforcement have neglected the problem because of their own turf wars. Immigration, drugs and arm smuggling have been the jurisdiction of differing agencies, not working together very effectively. (See Los Angeles Times article.)

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