Photo: Maxim Hopman/Unsplash

By KELIN DILLON

As the flow of migrants to the border of the United States and Mexico has continued, criminal groups have seized the opportunity to exploit this already-marginalized group, extorting and kidnapping them as a new facet of their illicit enterprise.

Rather than just charging exorbitant fees to traffic migrants through the border, these groups have begun holding them at gunpoint and demanded thousands of dollars from their relatives and family members elsewhere, actions that have been captured on video.

Insiders say these ransom situations have been happening particularly on the northern border of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas within a network of safehouses. They likewise revealed that the cost of smuggling across the border varies racially; for Asian migrants, the cost can allegedly reach $20,000, while South Americans must pay $10,000. Meanwhile, Central Americans — a region experiencing huge population flight — had their price tag raised from $1,000 to $4,000 in the past year alone.

Likewise, fees increase dependent on where a migrant wishes to be dropped; Houston and areas further north necessitate a higher cost.

The migrants are left in a difficult situation, as paying for trafficking across the border does not ensure their safety from extortion, but failing to do so is likely to end in their capture from armed migrant-hunting groups known as “La Operativa.” 

Not to mention, many migrants are forced to pay “protection fees” to the very same criminals that smuggled them to keep protecting their family left on the other side of the border.

According to the insiders, the issue could be amplified by the negligence and complicity of Mexico’s police and military on the Mexican side of the border.

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