What is true for drug smuggling is also true for migrant smuggling. If push factors and pull factors remain unaddressed, and a barrier is created preventing fluidity from the one to the other, one has the perfect conditions for an underground market to flourish. The more the authorities repress undocumented migrants, the more they are pushed deeper underground into the hands of unscrupulous smugglers, recruiters, employers and landlords. 40 years of the war on drugs have not significantly reduced the power of the cartels. One should remember that the end of the Prohibition in the Thirties brought an end to bootlegging from Canada and destroyed underground empires such as Al Capone’s. Harm-reduction policies have most often worked better than zero-tolerance policies and allowed law enforcement to target specific threats without having to cast too large a net. As for tackling undocumented migration, taking over the mobility market by providing most migrants with regular, safe, accessible and affordable mobility options and repressing employers abusing the precariousness of their workforce are the only way to progressively eliminate underground labour markets and the migrant smuggling industry.
“When asked whether the border wall promised by President Trump will stop smugglers, he smiles. “This is never going to stop, neither the narco trafficking nor the illegals,” he says. “There will be more tunnels. More holes. If it doesn’t go over, it will go under.”
What will change? The fees that criminal networks charge to transport people and contraband across the border. Every time the wall goes up, so do smuggling profits.
Today, many migrants pay smugglers as much as $5,000 to head north without papers, trekking for days through the Sonoran Desert. Most of that money goes to drug cartels that have taken over the profitable business…
Strengthening defenses does not stop smuggling. It only makes it more expensive, which inadvertently gives more money to criminal networks”
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