EXCLUSIVE: Border surge sends prices soaring; smugglers can earn 200,000
By Stephen Dinan, June 8, 2021
And 2021 is turning into a boom year. Based on the number of migrants and the prices they are paying, smugglers are easily on track for their biggest profits in history.
“Demand is so strong that the prices are going up,” said Todd Bensman, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies who tracks smuggling tactics. “There’s huge, huge money being made right now.”
Mr. Manjarrez said 40 to 50 people can be involved in a single migrant’s journey, and each of them is getting a cut of the money.
Mr. Bensman compared it to a relay race, with migrants as batons handed off from one person to another.
Everyone knows their territory. Some specialize in mountains, and others get migrants onto the trains that run across Mexico. They have relationships with local authorities and know whom to pay to ease the passage.
Mr. Bensman once tried to arrange a fake smuggling trip north from Central America. He was told it would cost $1,000 just to move someone from Costa Rica to Nicaragua.
“They said, ‘We need the money to pay the police,’” he said.
The cartels, which sometimes oversee the trips, come into play when it’s time to cross the border.
They control the approaches and charge for each crossing through their territory. Some agents refer to it as a “mafia fee,” and migrants call it a “piso.” The fee can range from a couple of hundred dollars to more than $1,000.