Human smuggling facilitators in the US Southwest

Authored by: Gabriella Sanchez

The Routledge Handbook on Crime and International Migration

Print publication date:  September  2014
Online publication date:  July  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415823944
eBook ISBN: 9780203385562
Adobe ISBN: 9781135924331


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This chapter examines the social organization of human smuggling groups along the US-Mexico border. Relying on data contained in legal case fi les, along with fi eld observations and face-to-face interactions, this chapter explores how human smugglers (known along the US-Mexico border as ‘coyotes’) are ordinary citizens whose social capital alone provides them with the connections and resources needed for their participation in human smuggling operations, without the need for third-party or external interventions like large criminal organizations. The men and women of smuggling have diverse backgrounds, and work on an ad-hoc, temporary basis facilitating the extra-legal crossings of migrants across the US-Mexico border. The study revealed no indication of smuggling participants responding to any kind of centralized, hierarchical leadership. Furthermore, and contrary to popular belief, no evidence of collaboration was found between human smuggling groups and transnational organized crime was found. Instead, facilitators operate locally, recirculating the income generated by smuggling into the local economies, and in so doing supplementing the income they generate through their full-time employment in the legal economy in an attempt to reduce the socio-economic marginalization that working-class communities along borders have experienced historically.

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