Home Page

The Political Question

Immigration Policy

Immigration and the 2008 Presidential Election

The Economic Question

Economic Impact


The Rise of Smuggling







AmCult 213 Website

The Rise of Smuggling

A lesser known effect of tighter United States border control and increased undocumented immigration is the rise of the smuggling industry in Mexico.  To start, it is important to realize that tighter border controls have not exactly led to a decrease in the amount of migration to the United States.  Immigrants come to the United States for a variety of reasons. Often times they come as a result of the United States' demand for migrant labor, which pays more than the salaries they can receive at home.  Furthermore, undocumented immigrants often times emigrate to the United States because they have many family members who already live there.  These are examples of the pull factors that lead to immigrants continuously trying to get across the border even if they originally have trouble.  This trend is shown in the chart below:

Picture Not Available

One assumption that can be drawn from this chart is that increased border control has had reduced effects since 2000, but this is not necessarily the case.  While it has become increasingly difficult to enter the United States, the methods of crossing have become more intense.  Many criminal organizations in Mexico have thrived on stricter border controls, as they have been able to charge immigrants a higher rate for smuggling them across the border.  This has not deterred immigrants either, as research as recent as 2006 in Mexico showed that 9 out of every 10 surveyed Mexicans reported they would enlist the services of smugglers if, or when, they choose to migrate.  As the U.S. Border Patrol pours more resources into improved technology such as night-vision, extensive weight sensors, and improved x-ray machines, criminal organizations have also been able to increase their capabilities.  They do this by successfully placing people on their payroll in customs positions and acquiring their own state-of-the-art equipment. (36)

The side effects of this border battle are very closely tied to the human rights of many undocumented immigrants.  The cost of being smuggled into the country is usually in between $2,000 and $3,000 per person, and often cannot be paid by the time of departure. (37)  This inability to pay has led to brutal treatment of many immigrants once they are in the United States.  To repay these criminal organizations for their services, some immigrants are forced to smuggle and sell drugs, sell merchandise, or even participate in prostitution. (38)

Now, what can be done about this growing problem?  There are two very general and popular solutions:

• By legalizing the undocumented immigrants that have already made it in to the United States, the U.S. can limit exploitation.

• A guest-worker program could reduce the incentive to permanently migrate to the United States and therefore, provide the same labor supply without the illegal methods.

Both of these proposed solutions come with serious side effects, and thus, the debate over how to combat smuggling is as complicated as the general immigration debate we discuss in the rest of this website.