Migrants used as 'smokescreen' by traffickers

In recent months, the El Paso Border Patrol (USBP) Sector has seen an increase in the number of large groups of undocumented immigrants crossing the border, as part of an organized crime cell strategy.

Drugs trafficked while Border Patrol attends large groups of undocumented
Drugs trafficked while Border Patrol attends large groups of undocumented

So far in the fiscal year 2019, around 26 groups have been detained, consisting of between 100 and even more than 300 migrants, most of them from Central America.

Ramiro Cordero, the spokesman for USBP Sector El Paso, said that this increase is due to the fact that criminal groups are crossing undocumented migrants through desert areas with a double purpose: to traffic people and distract agents.

"In one of the last arrests of these large groups of migrants in the area of El Berrendo and Antelope Wells, at the same time other agents seized a shipment of 275 pounds of marijuana that were being introduced very close to this port of entry," he explained.

"Obviously this is a strategy of criminal organizations because they believe that by putting a group of people of that size (agents) we are going to concentrate only on those people and we are going to neglect the rest of the border," said Cordero.

The spokesman assures that this way of operating of the "polleros" is only a distraction so that the criminal groups can carry out other illicit activities.

Cordero emphasized that this new way of operating by the "polleros" is because these people know that processing such large groups requires time and more personnel.

"These organizations know that by sending us these groups we have to move staff to be able to process people. For example, the last group we stopped was 306 people and obviously it takes time, but that does not mean that we are going to neglect the border, "he said.

He indicated that these criminal cells operate from the countries of Central America, where they are told how much they have to pay and where they have to go.

"People we have questioned have told us that everything has been scheduled since they arrive at the border and they know what they have to do," he reiterated.

It had already happened

The spokesperson told El Diario de El Paso, that more than a decade ago there had been a similar problem with groups of migrants, but they moved to the New Mexico desert, considering it an easier place to cross.

"In 2014 or 2015, many groups arrived in South Texas, a lot of attention was paid to that area and the area was reinforced; Obviously they started to move slowly and now it is more common to see them in the Berrendo area, "he said.

Cordero mentioned that with the displacements to these areas, so far this fiscal year there have been more than 25 thousand arrests of migrants, almost the total of arrests that took place in the fiscal year 2018 where about 32 thousand undocumented migrants were detained.

Change in the trend

The spokesperson indicated that it is important to mention that although it is said that the arrests of migrants went down, it is not taken into account that they are different groups.

"Many people make that comparison that in 2000 1.6 million people were arrested and last year there were only about 400 thousand people who did not have a problem. You have to understand that they are very different groups of migrants, "he said.

Since according to USBP records some years ago, 95 percent of the detainees were adult men of Mexican origin, while now it is families from countries like Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, which makes the process difficult.

"It is very different to prosecute Mexicans than a Central American; we can return the people of Mexico faster thanks to the agreements we have, but for people from other countries there is no mechanism to return them immediately and this is causing a bottleneck in the system, "Cordero explained.

In addition to all migrants who arrive at the border represent a source of diseases, which come charging from their countries of origin.

"In this last group, a detainee of Guatemalan origin told one of the agents about an annoyance that he had in his leg and in the hospital, they determined that it was a bacterium that is eating human flesh. It is not infectious but we have run into this and other diseases that are not common here, "he said.

Difficult to stop people smugglers

Since migrants are crossing the border in large groups, USBP has realized that human traffickers no longer risk crossing the border, which makes their capture difficult.

"The polleros (people smugglers) do not cross, they do not put themselves at risk at any time because they give instructions to migrants from Mexico, but they never set foot in US territory," he said.

Despite this obstacle to the detention of these human traffickers, Cordero said that he is working with Mexican authorities so that they can carry out the corresponding investigations.