We know that there is a humanitarian crisis at the border. Since October 2013, there have been more than 50,000 unaccompanied immigrant children traveling from Central America to the U.S. who have been apprehended near the U.S.-Mexico border. The majority of these children were forced to escape their home countries because of constant violence. Most of the immigrant children arriving at the U.S. border are from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
The reasons as to why these children attempt such a dangerous journey is not difficult to understand. However, there is also the question as to how these children, some as young as 5 and 6, actually make the journey from Central America to the United States? One answer is through the use of human smuggling, or trafficking.
A recent article posted on Arizona Public Media discusses human trafficking in the state and how federal officials are working hard to crack down on this illegal practice. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has begun to target “the smuggling organizations getting the tens of thousands of Central American unaccompanied minors and women with children into the country and overwhelming the immigration system.”
As stated in a press release from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has apparently developed a strategy that will “disrupt and dismantle organized human smuggling networks.” Tucson is known for being one of, if not the, busiest Border Patrol sector in the country. Only recently has the Rio Grande Valley of Texas seen “a spike in trafficking across the border.”
Arizona Public Media spoke with Scott Brown, a special agent for investigations for DHS in Phoenix. He said that Arizona has seen trends similar to other states in the country. This includes an increase in immigrants from Central America and a decrease in immigrants from Mexico. Brown noted that an important first step in the process is identifying the money. Once the money is identified, that information can be used to infiltrate an organization “more effectively.”
Another indication that ICE is seeing success in its efforts is the fact that the number of stash houses in and around Phoenix has dropped. Stash house are used by smugglers to hold immigrants until money is paid by relatives. According to mesaaz.gov, typical indicators of a stash house include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Most stash houses are rental homes;
- Most stash houses will have an attached garage;
- Yard is unkempt;
- Occupants of a stash house tend to keep to themselves and do not have a “normal” pattern of lifestyle; and
- Different types of vehicles will enter and exit the garage at various times throughout the day and night.
According to a DHS report, the agency found 174 stash houses in Phoenix in 2009. The number dropped to 140 in 2010. In 2013, the number was down to 30.
In addition to the dangers that come after hiring a human smuggler, it is also expensive. CBP estimates that the cost charged by smugglers range from “a few hundred dollars to $5,000 or $10,000 per person.”