The Republican administration justified its recent crackdown on illegal immigration to secure the United States’ borders from criminal groups, often pointing the finder at the Salvadoran gang “MS-13.” What if the “zero-tolerance” policy bolsters organized crime instead? Steve Dudley, the co-founder of InSight Crime, a think tank that studies organized crime in the Americas, believes that a strict border policy could make crime groups stronger.
Dudley says that having a strict border policy will not halt border crossing, but will push people to illegal markets of migrating to the United States, which are far more dangerous and more expensive.
“In many of these cases and the cases of migrants, [border crossing] means going through very difficult terrain, whether we are talking about Mexico or the United States. We can even extend that to Europe,” Dudley says. “The amount of money estimated that [smugglers] make has gone up exponentially. We are talking a $30 billion to $40 billion business.”
Dudley says that many of the crimes that occur at the border derive from human smuggling, like human trafficking. Dudley says that migrants rarely move drugs across the border.
“What you will see is these [smugglers] often divert these migrants into other sorts of activities, forth prostitution or forth labor camps, where you have [migrants] who are ostensibly paying off debts for their movement across these borders,” says Dudley. “In essence, it turns out to be a modern form of slavery. We at InSight Crime have not seen hardly any evidence at all that [smugglers] use the migrants to move drugs. They move drugs through other channels.”
Dudley says that strict border laws ultimately harsh border laws invite further instability and potential crime to those who are already suffering from a lack of certainty.
“You’re creating a situation of furthering stability in places that already suffer from instability, which is one of the reasons why [migrants] are fleeing the place in the first place.”
Written by Haley Butler.