Human smuggling operations led by Central American drug cartels have exploded since U.S. President Joe Biden took office, according to a former top Mexican immigration official.
Former Mexican immigration chief Tonatiuh Guillén said Friday that human smuggling industry south of the United States’ southern border has seen extreme growth recently as drug cartels and other smaller smuggling operations transport people to the U.S.
“Drug-trafficking organizations end up dominating the structure of migrant-trafficking groups,” Guillén told The Wall Street Journal. “There’s been a huge expansion in the last two years.”
Former Mexican intelligence chief Guillermo Valdés backed up Guillén’s claim, telling the WSJ: “Migrant smuggling has become an industrial business. Demand is huge and rising, and that means you need more and bigger transportation.” Valdés comment on “bigger transportation” is a reference to the use of vehicles such as the abandoned tractor-trailer found near San Antonio containing dozens of dead migrants believed to be part of a smuggling operation.
The human smuggling business south of the U.S. border well over a one-billion-dollar annual industry. According to a 2021 United Nations study, migrants from just three countries – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – pay roughly $1.7 billion a year to smugglers, known as coyotes, or drug cartels to transport them and their families to the U.S.
The tractor-trailer believed to be a human smuggling rig abandoned near San Antonio sparked a firestorm of criticism against the Biden administration’s handling of the immigration crisis ongoing at the U.S. southern border. Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) placed the blame of over 50 migrant deaths on the president.
“These deaths are on Biden,” Abbott tweeted on Monday night after the tractor-trailer was found. “They are a result of his deadly open border policies. They show the deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law.”
Biden called the discovery “horrifying and heartbreaking” and denounced criticism of his border policies as “political grandstanding.”
Since taking office, Biden has reversed many of former President Donald Trump’s border policies while placing greater emphasis on screening and admitting asylum seekers than cracking down on illegal migration. While migration across the U.S. southern border surged in Biden’s first months as president, the number of deportations collapsed.
On Thursday, The U.S. Supreme Court greenlit one of the Biden administration’s latest efforts to scrap a Trump-era migration policy. The high court ruled in a 5-4 decision that Biden can repeal the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols policy, more commonly known as “Remain in Mexico.”
The policy required asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while the U.S. processed their asylum claims. Instead, the Biden administration seeks to overhaul the immigration system to expedite asylum claims. In May, the Biden administration launched new protocols for processing asylum claims that allows asylum officers to review claims and release claimants into the U.S. Rejected claims will be set aside for an immigration court to review at a later date.
The Biden administration has said that the new system will help deal with a backlog of hundreds of thousands of pending immigration cases. Critics says that the new processes will only worsen the ongoing immigration crisis.