A RAND Corporation report released Monday reveals that Central American migrants paid human smugglers more than $2 billion in 2017 to get them into the United States.

RAND Corporation’s Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center reveals Central American migrants paid human smugglers, including transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) up to about $2.5 billion in smuggling fees and “taxes” in 2017.

During Fiscal Year 2017, Border Patrol agents apprehended migrants crossing the border in near-record low levels. Agents apprehended only 303,916 migrants during that fiscal year, including 75,622 Family Unit Aliens (FMUA) and 41,435 Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC), according to the FY2017 Southwest Border Migration Report from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

During the first six months of the current fiscal year, agents already exceeded the total FY2017 apprehensions with the arrest of 361,087 migrants. Those include a record-setting 189,584 FMUAs and an additional 35,898 UACs.

“Cartels + criminal organizations run a profit-driven enterprise trafficking human beings across our border,” U.S. Representative Chip Roy (R-TX) tweeted in response to the RAND report.

Congressmen Roy is leading the charge to have certain factions of Mexican cartels designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) by the U.S. State Department in order to allow law enforcement to employ additional tools to combat human smuggling and trafficking, Breitbart News reported in February.

“We know that the dangerous fentanyl and heroin that is flowing through our border between the ports of entry and at the ports of entry as well as the people who are being put in stash houses, being held hostage, paying ransom back to the cartels that all of this is endangering us significantly,” Roy told Amanda House during an interview broadcast on Breitbart News Sunday. “The gangs that are now growing in Texas and throughout the country are doing so in part due to the connection to the cartels.”

“So, it is past time for us to recognize that they are a terrorist threat to the United States,” the Congressman from Texas stated.

The authors of the RAND report developed “a preliminary estimate  of revenues from human smuggling flowing to all types of smugglers, not just TCOs — ranging from about $200 million to $2.3 billion in 2017.” The “range in uncertainty stemming largely from analytical challenges related to data limitations and time constraints.”

The authors also looked at “taxes,” or “pisos” paid by migrants to drug-trafficking TCOs as they pass through their cartel-controlled smuggling routes. Those “taxes” range from $30 million to $180 million, the report stated.

The report recommends changes to combat the funds that are paid to the human smugglers — particularly funds paid from residents inside the U.S. Those include:

  • Target vulnerabilities of human smugglers. For example, consider expanding existing efforts to investigate payments made to human smugglers, especially in the United States, and working more closely with formal and informal banking services to identify suspicious payments. Also, consider expanding current efforts to work with foreign law enforcement partners to disrupt smuggling operations.
  • Use information about the value of the smuggling market to inform decisions about efforts to allocate resources to market disruption.
  • Consider standardizing and expanding the range of questions that border officials ask migrants during interviews to seek more consistent and detailed information from migrants about different types of smugglers, routes, and payments.
  • Use shared portal for data entry that can screen for errors and use a randomized survey process to reduce the administrative burden of data collection on frontline personnel and increase the likelihood of successful data entry.

The ability to track and crack down on payments made to smugglers would be enhanced by the law enforcement tools available to police agencies in the U.S. if the cartel factions are designated at FTOs.

Congressman Roy stated the Gulf Cartel will make about $130 million on the backs of the estimated 400,000 migrants who will be “flowing through the Rio Grande Valley Sector this year, according to CBP.”

Of the 400,000 migrants crossing the border, only half will be caught and 90 percent of those will be released after being apprehended. “Basically, you’ve got 300,000 people here in the United States and they’re now having to pay the cartels ransom because they’re here.”

“One area where DHS may be able to affect networks, groups, or the market involves money transfers that take place once individuals arrive in the United States,” the authors of the report state. “Many migrants only make their final payment to smugglers after they arrive in the United States.”

“DHS might consider expanding existing efforts to investigate these kinds of payments, including working more closely with formal and informal banking services, to identify suspicious payments,” they continue. ”

In a statement announcing Roy’s letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling for the FTO designation, the Texas Congressman said, “Cartels are the problem and it is time we started acting like it. These cartels undermine our national security with a relentless attack on our border while trafficking in human beings and dangerous narcotics,” Rep. Roy said in a written statement. “Cartels are endangering American citizens, our Mexican neighbors, and the migrants who seek to come here.”

Representative Mark Green (R-TN) joined in Roy’s letter to Pompeo and said, “These cartels have utilized barbaric tactics including those adopted by ISIS and al Qaeda – murdering and torturing innocents, destabilizing countries and assassinating members of law enforcement. Moreover, they threaten our homeland security.”

During an interview on Breitbart News Tonight, Darby called out a specific faction of the Gulf Cartel for its domination of the human trafficking market from Mexico into South Texas.

“In the Rio Grande Valley Sector of Texas,” Darby explained. “There is one cartel who operates in that sector — the Gulf Cartel. There are multiple factions of the Gulf Cartel which, on their own are transnational criminal organizations. In this particular area that we are talking about … that is one particular faction of the Gulf Cartel. It is the Reynosa faction.”

“It is the worst faction of the Gulf Cartel and it is the faction of the Gulf Cartel and the only faction of any Mexican cartel that makes as much or more money from smuggling potential asylees to the border and other people who want to enter illegally. They make as much or more from illegal immigration as they do from narcotics.”

The RAND report confirms this stating that the estimated $2.3 billion paid to human smugglers is in the “same order of magnitude” as earlier RAND reports estimating the revenues of drug traffickers.

One report based on a survey carried out by a Mexican online magazine shows how the smuggling fee, estimated to be an average of up to $10,000 per person in 2017, were divided up along a typical trip from Honduras. The report states:

  • $2,000 covered expenses to get to Reynosa (including corruption of police checkpoints in Guatemala and Mexico, transport, housing, food)
  • $300 covered the “cartel fee,” or piso
  • $5,000 paid for the coyote in charge of U.S. border crossing and the travel to Houston
    (an additional $1,500 was charged if the unlawful migrants wanted to travel past Houston into the interior)
  • $1,000 went to the coyote who traveled through Mexico with the unlawful migrants
  • $1,700 was the profit earned by the individual who facilitated the overall journey.

The complete report cites numerous examples of human smuggling fees and how they break down into payments at various points along the smuggling route.

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for the Breitbart Border team. He is an original member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Facebook.

RAND Corporation — Human Smuggling and Associated Revenues

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