The business of human smuggling on the mexican border

by Sacha Feinman

ALTAR, Mexico—I hadn’t yet taken 10 steps off the bus when I made eye contact with someone for the first time.  “Are you going north?” he hissed, walking quickly toward me. “Let’s go. Let’s go,” he implored. A strange way to be welcomed someplace, no doubt, though the question is the only one of any real import here, and it often takes the place of a proper greeting. Sitting just 60 miles south of the Arizona-Mexico border, Altar, in Sonora state, is a place unlike any other. Once a quiet community of farmers and ranchers, this dusty desert town of 8,000 is now one of the most important staging points for the movement of undocumented workers. Migrants from all over Mexico and various Central and South American countries come here to find a guide who will take them through the dangerous desert crossing and into the United States.

The entire economy of Altar is based on the business of human smuggling. Rows of shops sell all the materials necessary for the border crossing. Backpacks, canned goods, and electrolyte-infused soft drinks are sold everywhere. Headhunters who work for the town’s coyotes pass the day looking for new customers. Their job is to spot Altar’s newest arrivals and sell them on a guide who knows the way into Arizona. They are fast talkers and hustlers, willing to promise anything to drum up business.

It is a disorienting sensation, arriving in Altar. The town feels like something out of an old Clint Eastwood spaghetti Western. When you step into the central plaza, dozens of strangers assess you, wondering what exactly you are doing here, while contemplating the ways a profit might be generated off your presence. A bodega selling cold beer and potato chips only adds to the effect; it features a slot machine that plays the theme music of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly over and over again.

During the hot spring and summer months, most business transactions take place during the morning hours. By the time I arrive, it is 3 in the afternoon, and the plaza has nearly emptied out for the day. Dogs lie about on patches of cracked earth, too lazy to react to the flies that blanket them. Migrants sit under what little shade they can find, clutching their backpacks and staring off into the horizon. They are waiting. Maybe they are short of the money needed to pay for the trip and are hoping for a family member to arrange a wire transfer. Perhaps their guide told them that the Border Patrol is out in force today and it is best to wait until tomorrow.

This is the pattern of life here. For the migrants in Altar, passing the time in silence, preferably in one of the few patches of shade, is the day’s main activity. Some even sleep in the plaza, though others prefer to pay rent at one of the town’s flophouses. More plentiful and affordable than motels, they are communal rooms densely packed with rows of bunk beds. A migrant’s 40 pesos ($3) rents a piece of plywood and a tattered blanket rather than a proper mattress.

With my bags in tow, I make my way to the Community Center for the Assistance of Migrants and the Needy (in Spanish, Centro Comunitario de Atención al Migrante y Necesitado). CCAMYN is Altar’s only free shelter. It is supported by the local church and run by Marcos Burruel, a remarkable man who once worked as a quality-control supervisor at the Tecate beer factory in Baja, Mexico. He was charged with smelling each batch of the freshly brewed product to ensure that nothing was off. One profession would seem to have little to do with the other, though Marcos found the common link.

As he explains it, “There are many different types of people who come through Altar and this shelter. There are the very good, the good, the normal, the bad, and the very bad. My job is to determine who is who and to protect the people that need my help.”

Marcos never turns away anyone who comes asking for a free meal. But visitors looking to spend the night and enjoy the comfort of a real mattress and an actual bed sheet must first make it past his discerning nose.

A migrant’s first stop upon arrival at the shelter is a wobbly plastic chair in front of Marcos’ desk. Other than a crucifix hanging from the far wall, the room is free of decoration. In quick succession, Marcos asks his guests a series of questions. Name, age, marital status, and hometown are all registered before he delves deeper.

“Did you already try to cross? Yes? And the Border Patrol caught you and shipped you back? How many people were in your group? What was the cost of your guide? And the narcos … how steep was the tax—how much did you pay them before you were allowed to leave Altar? What about the driver who drove you up to the border—how much did he charge?”

Marcos knows the answers to each of these questions before he asks them. How his guest responds, however, allows him to differentiate between a migrant in need of help and a lying stranger, someone who has come to the shelter with an ulterior motive. It also presents a great opportunity for me to learn how Altar works.

The first man Marcos interviewed went by the name Orlando, and he didn’t conform to the migrant stereotype. Sporting a gold tooth and an expensive-looking watch on his left wrist, he answered every question confidently. Nevertheless, he was told he could only stay for dinner. After Orlando left the room, Marcos explained.

“He’s a coyote, here looking for customers,” he said. “I try never to turn away anyone who asks me for food, but he definitely will not spend the night.”

Next up was Jose. Born in the state of Hidalgo, he claimed to have been caught and deported by Border Patrol that very day.

“And how much was the tax you had to pay the narcos?”

Jose was confused. “What tax?” he asked.

“The narcos, the mafia … no one gets in those vans if they don’t pay the tax first. How much did you have to pay them?”

Jose looked at his feet, and after a pause, responded.

“Five hundred pesos,” he answered cautiously. His response was a question as much it was a statement.

Marcos shook his head, sure that a real migrant who had crossed recently would know that the tax is much higher. “You’ll have to leave after dinner,” he said.

Antonio followed, and it was instantly clear that he was the real thing. An older man carrying a beat-up backpack, he had a week’s worth of stubble and walked with a pronounced limp. The question-and-answer session seemed to be going well, until Marcos paused, leaning forward slightly.

“And how many beers did you drink today?” he finally asked.

Antonio was clearly startled. “None,” he replied.

“With respect, I know you’ve been drinking today. How many beers?”

“I haven’t had anything to drink,” Antonio reiterated.

“Listen. It’s a rule. You can’t have alcohol in your body and stay here. I have an incredible sense of smell. It’s a gift, and I thank God for it every day. I can smell beer on your breath. I know you’ve been drinking. Just tell me: How much have you had to drink today?”

Antonio relented. “Two beers,” he said, “I’ve had two beers today.”

“Well, then,” answered Marcos, “I’m sorry, but you can’t stay the night.”

Of the six men he who filed through, only one was given permission to sleep at the shelter.

“We don’t have many resources; we have to be selective about who we help,” Marcos would later explain. “I have to protect those who need protection, and I have to offer help only to those who are truly migrants. Those are the people this shelter is meant for. It’s not too difficult to spot a real migrant. He will come here with his backpack, he’ll be dirty, and he will have trouble walking, all because of the desert. And he’ll tell you that all he wants is to go home, that he doesn’t want anything more to do with the United States.”

After a quiet dinner, I am shown to the dormitory. The sun has set, and Marcos is preparing to leave. The shelter has no room in the budget to hire a night watchman, so guests are locked inside until sunrise. As I lay on my bed, three additional guests are admitted. They file in quickly, the door closing behind them. No one makes eye contact or acknowledges anyone else’s presence. Everyone keeps one hand on their bags as they drift off to sleep.

The bed is clean, if a bit uncomfortable. A single spring pokes upward from the middle of the mattress. Trying to avoid it, I sleep on my side. It’s a battle fought in vain, though; an unfortunate shift results in a sharp stab to my lower back. The sleep had been shallow and uneasy, anyway, and I am now fully awake. There is no clock on the wall, but the window frames a pitch-black desert night, the sky clear and filled with stars. It must be about 3 a.m.

The room is rather cramped, mostly because of the number of bunk beds stacked together. One of the migrants snores loudly. He fills the rooms with the sound of a motorcycle failing to start again and again. In the bed next to me, another migrant is masturbating underneath his blanket. With his climax, he releases a deep sigh, sounding as though a priest has just exorcised him.

I lie on my back, allowing the spring to dig into me. I’ll just have to wait out the rest of the night. There is no use going back to sleep after witnessing a thing like that.

——————————————————————————–

From: Sacha Feinman

Subject: Waiting for the Right Guide

Updated Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009, at 10:01 AM ET

——————————————————————————–

ALTAR, Mexico—Breakfast is a simple affair at the CCAMYN shelter: a cup of coffee and a doughnut before we leave. The doors are locked for most of the day, reopening again at 5 p.m. The guests scatter in all directions, but most eventually make their way to the central plaza where they wait the day out. It’s 7:30 in the morning, and Altar is just waking up. Pickup trucks with darkly tinted windows slowly make their way down the unpaved streets, stirring dirt into the desert air. Wild dogs stand guard in front of the neighboring houses, growling at passers-by.

There is so much paranoia in a town where the entire economy is built around smuggling people and drugs across international borders. Even though it gives off the impression of being a sleepy desert town, there is never any doubt that if you cross paths with the wrong people in Altar, things can go wrong very, very quickly.

The three men who arrived at the shelter late the night before are walking behind me, and I drop back to strike up a conversation with them. They are quick to introduce themselves, shaking hands while making direct eye contact. This will prove to be a rarity during my stay in Altar, especially among the migrant population.

It is a strange thing to introduce yourself to the man who made his first impression by masturbating next to you in the early morning hours. He has a sweet, boyish smile, which immediately puts me at ease. He is tall and wears a clean, unwrinkled shirt tucked into his jeans. A small crucifix dangles from his neck, made visible by three open buttons. His name is Uvaldo. Introductions are made, and I explain myself to the group. It’s a story I will tell again and again over the course of two weeks: I am a journalist, here to collect migrants’ stories. Where are they from, where are they going, how will they cross the border, what work will they look for in the United States? This is as much a security measure as it is an act of disclosure; Mexico’s infamous drug cartels are well-represented in Altar, and my explanation serves as a pre-emptive strike to keep people from accusing me of sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong.

The three men had been strangers until a week ago. They met while staying at a flophouse in Sonoyta, farther to the west. They were unimpressed with the guides they met there. They just hadn’t felt right, so they took a bus to Altar, where Jesus, the natural leader of the group, knew of a guide reputed to be trustworthy. All three were born in southern Mexico, and they had come to trust one another for the simple purpose of self-preservation. In a place where everyone is sizing you up, trying to find a way to profit from you, it’s good to have someone watching your back.

In the plaza, we find a shaded bench under the tall wall of the town church. Two pushcart vendors sell instant coffee and homemade tamales to the crowd of would-be migrants. Headhunters wearing cowboy boots and baseball caps walk by, talking on their cell phones and eyeballing us. They are looking for a signal of some kind, a sign that we are open to their sales pitch. Business is slow, and they are desperate to bring in clients for their coyote bosses.

As we sit there, watching the town’s business transpire, Uvaldo starts to rifle through his bag.

“Have you read this?” he asks, “A friend gave it to me. It’s practice for my English.”

Eventually he brings out a tattered paperback, passing it to me gently, as though it were a full cup of coffee. Uvaldo’s copy of Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life is heavily underlined and features a picture of his infant daughter taped to the inside cover.

My experience in extraordinary locales has taught me that in an environment like Altar, expectations are often subverted. Once, while touring a notorious slum in Buenos Aires, a young teenager stuck a gun in my face and yanked my camera bag from my shoulder. A woman who had accompanied me on the trip immediately stepped in front of the gun, yelling at the boy that his mother would be ashamed if she could see what he was doing to a visitor. His eyes turned glassy, and he handed back my camera bag, literally begging for forgiveness as he backed away. On another assignment, I spent a week in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, home to one of the world’s most notorious black markets, as well as a small Muslim community that the U.S. government has repeatedly accused of funneling money to Hezbollah. On my last day in town, I met a wholesale drug dealer, a man who claimed to move hundreds of pounds of marijuana across the Brazilian and Argentine borders on a regular basis. We were discussing the market rate of his goods when he suddenly stopped to ask me my last name. I had lied earlier, introducing myself with a false name, but this question caught me off guard, and I blurted out my real surname. He smiled reflexively, bringing a Star of David necklace from his back pocket.

I can’t help but think of both incidents as Uvaldo and I discuss Warren’s philosophy. He is particularly fond of the chapter titled “You Are Not an Accident.” Underlined and starred is a passage that reads, “If there was no God, we would all be ‘accidents,’ the result of astronomical random chance in the universe. You could stop reading this book, because life would have no purpose or meaning or significance. … But there is a God who made you for a reason, and your life has profound meaning!”

I ask Uvaldo what the passage means to him.

“There are people there in the U.S. who think that I want to live there forever. But that is not the case. No! Life is too short. I want to be with my daughter here in Mexico; I only want to provide for her. That is the purpose of my life, and this trip is not an accident.”

Slowly, the hours pass, though we barely move, shifting only with the shade as morning becomes afternoon. Uvaldo, Jesus, and Juan, the third member of the group, huddle up and whisper. From time to time, they cross the street to a phone booth. They call family. They call the friend who recommended the guide, trying to coordinate where and when they will meet him.

By 1:30, the pushcarts are gone, and the plaza has emptied out. We wait, and we wait, and we wait. We smoke a cigarette, we enter the church to seek the Virgin Mary’s blessing, and we wait. The whole experience appears unremarkable. Nothing happens. And yet lives and futures hang in the balance. Institutions larger than any group of individuals all operate independently along the border, and a successful crossing depends on their accidental coordination, on a migrant setting out at the lucky moment when the stars happen to align.

Uvaldo and his friends must first find a guide they are comfortable with. That accomplished, they travel the unpaved desert road that connects Altar to the physical border, 60 miles to the north. On certain days, the Mexican military will set up an outpost halfway up the road, stopping all traffic to demand a bribe. Guides have a habit of delaying their trips when this happens. Once the border is reached, the guides choose their routes carefully, desperate not to cross paths with the ever-present narcotraffickers moving marijuana and cocaine. There is no sure way to know the movements of the U.S. Border Patrol, but scouts working for the coyotes are posted at certain vantage points. They keep an eye out, radioing in the best moments to risk the crossing. And there is still the desert to contend with; forecasts of a summer heat wave or a winter cold spell can speed up or indefinitely delay even the best-laid plans. Some migrants arrive in Altar and are gone in less than 24 hours. Others find themselves stranded for a week, 10 days, with nothing to do but pass time in the empty plaza, listening to the cries of the ice cream vendor selling coconut popsicles for 10 pesos.

Uvaldo, Jesus, and Juan sit in purgatory, waiting for elements beyond their control to come together so that they can move toward the promise of the north. They go through their equipment, triple-checking that they have all the supplies they need. Two gallons of water and four tins of tuna apiece. A can of deodorant, a toothbrush, and a razor—a migrant must look fresh upon arrival, or the just-completed journey will be obvious. A belt with all of the group’s crucial phone numbers etched into the leather on the inside. Scraps of paper have a habit of falling out of pockets on long hikes through the desert. A jug of water stuffed with cloves of garlic. Soaking your feet in the resulting infusion is a common means of scaring off rattlesnakes.

By 4, the plaza is empty, and we have barely moved. Jesus crosses the street to make yet another phone call. Their guide should have been here by now. They think he might be in another town a short bus ride away. For the first time all day, Juan starts to talk to me. He is a shy man, short and pudgy, with silver fillings that outline his front teeth whenever he smiles.

“I had a dream a few days back,” he starts. “It was awful. We were just about to cross the line, when our guide told us to hang back. ‘Wait here,’ he said. ‘Eat something while I go up ahead to look for Border Patrol.’ Three hours later, he still hadn’t come back. Five hours later, he was still gone. I was tired and freezing cold, so I wrapped myself in my extra pair of pants. I started to fall asleep when a man dressed in black suddenly appeared and started grabbing at me. I reached over to warn my friends, but they were gone; I was alone in the middle of the desert.”

As Juan describes his dream, Jesus comes back with word that their guide isn’t in Altar. They’ve waited the entire day before realizing that they aren’t even in the right town. Human smuggling is an elusive and imprecise business; its central agents are, by their very nature, hard to pin down. But a good guide is a valuable commodity, and when the next bus pulls into the plaza, Uvaldo, Jesus, and Juan climb aboard. Ten minutes earlier, we had talked about heading back to the shelter and trying again in the morning. Now, suddenly, they are gone, following their purpose to another border town.

——————————————————————————–

From: Sacha Feinman

Subject: Two Migrants for the Price of One!

Posted Friday, Aug. 21, 2009, at 7:21 AM ET

——————————————————————————–

NOGALES, Mexico—Enrique Enriquez is a veteran of the battles fought along the border. As one of the local heads of the humanitarian immigration agency Grupos Beta, Enriquez has spent almost 15 years watching as the business of human smuggling morphed from a series of independent “mom and pop” shops into a big business.

The first time I paid Enriquez a visit, I was ushered into his sparsely furnished office and offered an orange plastic chair. He was dressed in the orange polo shirt that is Grupos Beta’s uniform. With a cell phone glued to his ear, he flashed a quick smile and raised an index finger in lieu of a proper hello. He’d be with me as soon as he could; right now he was literally in the middle of a life or death situation. A teenage migrant from the state of Tabasco was lost in the desert, having been separated from the rest of his group of border crossers only hours after starting out. The boy had no food or water, and he was in bad shape. His cell phone battery was low, but he had a clear signal. He was on the Mexican side of the border, which made his situation even more perilous. There would be no miraculous rescues by the U.S. Border Patrol. The boy had called his parents, who had in turn rung up Enriquez in a furious panic.

“Where did he enter?” Enriquez asked the boy’s distraught mother. “Altar? Sasabe? Nogales? What was the last city he was in?”

She doesn’t know; her son isn’t very smart. He is young and naive, and he can’t identify his surroundings. Enriquez takes a deep breath and hangs up the phone.

“I’m sorry, but can you come back tomorrow?” he asks. “I’m a little busy.”

The next day, I return to find Enriquez in a better mood; he had managed to rescue the boy before his phone died. The whole ordeal was just another afternoon on the job, another instance of the desert swallowing up a lost soul. On that day, Enriquez was lucky to have gotten one back.

“Ninety percent of the people who cross the border are assaulted in one way or another,” Enriquez begins. “And so was that boy. There are the bajadores, bandits who set upon the migrants and rob them. Sometimes the guides can turn on their people. The Border Patrol can get a little rough. And then there are the narcos.”

Moving migrants across the border and into the United States has become so profitable that even Mexico’s narcotraffickers have become involved. Drivers use a single twisting dirt road, rutted with pot holes, to bring their human cargo the 60 miles from Altar to the border town of Sasabe. The road, referred to by local media as the “route of death,” is controlled by local narcotraffickers.

According to Enriquez, the cartels have consolidated their control over the area in the last three years. They levy a tax of roughly 50-150 pesos (about $4-$12) on every migrant shipped north; those from countries other than Mexico pay more. Grupos Beta estimates that as many as 500,000 migrants are moved through Altar on the way to the United States during the busiest years. This “tax” represents an incredible source of extra income. Once the migrants reach Sasabe, they set out for various points east and west, obscure desert outposts where the U.S. Border Patrol has a light presence. They wait for the sun to set and begin their march into the United States with the arrival of a cool night breeze.

“You have to be very, very careful on that road and in Sasabe,” Enriquez warns. “They do not mess around there. They will shoot you.” He proceeds to lift up his shirt, showing me numerous healed gunshot wounds. They are strange souvenirs from a career spent trying to help people. He rolls up a pant leg and knocks on his shin, creating a loud, hollow sound.

“They stabbed me in Sasabe. I’m just warning you.”

“Sasabe, Sasabe, Sasabe! Two for one, two for one, two for one! Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” I climb into the passenger seat as the driver does his best to fill his van before leaving Altar. It’s the off-season for human smuggling, and he has to offer a discount—two humans smuggled for the price of one—in an attempt to fill up his van. He is very enthusiastic to have a gringo along for the ride—it’s a new twist on a usually boring workday. He drives this route dozens of times a week, bringing migrants to the border while also serving as the middleman between the migrants and the cartels. Before leaving Altar, he must report the number of migrants traveling in his van and pay the corresponding tax. A driver who underreports his passenger manifest can face deadly consequences.

Soon the van starts to fill up with five, 10, 15 migrants. They keep their eyes cast down to the ground and are reluctant to answer my questions. One man accuses me of being an undercover Border Patrol agent. He is unconvinced by my protestations that I am simply a journalist interested in collecting migrants’ stories.

The van is crowded now; people start to sweat and shift uneasily on the long metal benches that pass for seating. A short, gaunt man wearing crudely stitched sneakers and a baseball cap that features two fighting gamecocks climbs into the passenger seat next to me. He is the group’s guide. I introduce myself, though he is just as shy as his clients. The driver takes his seat behind the wheel, and we’re off. Less than five minutes after we leave town, we turn off a well-paved highway, and start down “the route of death” for Sasabe. The driver and the guide—once the driver empties his van at the border, the guide will take them into Arizona—both cross themselves.

Gradually, the guide starts to open up to me. He tells me that his name is Martin, that he is 23, and that this is his sixth time leading a group of migrants into the United States.

“I led my first group when I was 15. It was very easy. I didn’t have any problems. But in the last two to three years, there have been fewer customers, less money,” he tells me. “I’ve been doing this for eight years, and it used to be much easier. Today there is more Border Patrol in the area, which makes it harder, and more violence in the desert, which makes it more dangerous. Each year, we have to pay a higher tax to the narcos and be more careful about the routes we move through. You have to be very smart to be a guide these days. You have to know your routes, or you can get killed.”

As we talk, the van speeds through the desert, taking sharp turns at breakneck speed, flying over small sand dunes. The worn-out shocks make the ride very uncomfortable, though the driver grins with pleasure each time we bounce around. Maybe he is an adrenaline junkie, or maybe he is just trying to make his job interesting.

While chain-smoking a pack of Marlboro Reds, Martin continues to open up to me. He claims that he will earn only $1,000 for leading his group into the States.

“No one does this job because they can; they only do it because they have to. My dad taught me how to navigate the desert, but he died when I was 16. I have seven younger siblings, and it was my duty to try and help the family. I work in the U.S. to earn dollars, and I try to return to visit my family once a year. Every time I go back to the United States, I try and lead a group to make a little extra money.”

By now, we are deep in the desert, more than halfway to Sasabe. Vans returning to Altar pass us, their drivers flashing a series of hand signals. Our driver sits up straight in his seat, slowing the car. He turns to Martin and demands 70 pesos, a little more than $5. We’ve reached an army checkpoint, and a bribe is in order.

Our van stops next to a camouflaged Hummer. The driver leaves, disappearing for a few minutes with an army sergeant. A second soldier with a buzz cut, aviator glasses, and an automatic weapon slung across his shoulder climbs halfway into the driver’s seat and gives me a quizzical look.

“Where are you from?” he barks.

“Arizona,” I reply.

He isn’t quite sure what to make of my answer, and he stares at me for what seems significantly longer than the minute it probably was. Finally the sergeant reappears. The driver climbs back into the van, and we’re off again.

“He thought you were the guide,” chuckles Martin. “He couldn’t figure out what the fuck a white boy would be doing taking a bunch of Mexicans across the line. They are going to be trying to figure that out for a month.”

As Sasabe gets closer, signs of civilization start to materialize. We’ve been driving for just under two hours. Burned-out shells of cars litter the sides of the road. Stray dogs and pigs wander in front of our van. We pull out of the desert and back onto the highway. A few minutes more and we can see the border, the fence, and the bright lights that are the unmistakable sign of the U.S. Border Patrol. The driver pulls up next to a small bodega and unloads his cargo. It’s early afternoon, and the desert sun is still high. The migrants squat in what little shade is available, waiting for night to fall, for the temperature to drop, making movement possible.

The van turns around, and the driver and I stop at a liquor store to buy a case of beer for the road. We head back to Altar to load up again. Another day on the job, and a successful one at that.

Sacha Feinman is a freelance journalist born and raised in southern Arizona. This story was researched and reported under a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

(From Slate, daily magazine http://www.slate.com/)

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4 Responses to “The business of human smuggling on the mexican border”


  1. 1 yonzi August 23, 2009 at 12:40 am

    great article, but bro… did u write some tips ?

  2. 2 Katie Galloway August 29, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Hi Sacha,

    I’m a documentary filmmaker at the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s journalism school. I’ve been in touch with the L.A. Times about an interview I shot recently, and Geoff Mohan suggested I run it by you to see if you/60 Minutes might have some use for it.

    Here’s the story:

    A friend of mine from Guatemala recently arrived in Oakland after a traumatic trip across the border. I interviewed him on camera soon after he arrived. Here’s the jist:

    He and 28 other “normales” were escorted through the desert by a couple of coyotes who turned out to be in the employ of drug runners. There were two burros with the group carrying backpacks full of cocaine, and the normales were told to surround them so that they wouldn’t be visible.

    The group was tracked by six men who looked like they were in their 20s and 30s, tatted from the chin down, wearing bulletproof vests and carrying large guns. They were out of sight for most of the trip watching the group with binoculars. When the group would stop to rest, they would flank them (3 running down from each side) with guns drawn and take food and water from the normales, before insisting that the group move on w little rest. There apparently wasn’t enough water for the trip as a result and a couple of people couldn’t go on, but members of the group took turns carrying those who passed out, etc, and ultimately everyone made it across alive, which my friend thinks is a miracle. (They passed a couple of recently dead bodies along the way.) He told some harrowing sounding story of the drop off once the smugglers were done with them that I couldn’t fully understand bc of the language barrier. My Spanish is passable, but some details weren’t entirely clear…

    I don’t normally cover immigration but he and I both felt this was an important story to get out there to help make clear the dangers for everyday people trying to cross. He’s a good interview… could it be of use for your 60 Minutes piece, do you think? Or do you have suggestions about others who might be interested in running video excerpts, a radio piece, or a print piece along these lines? It was his 4th trip, by the way… but this one was radically different from times past for reasons you wrote about in your article…
    Thanks,
    Katie Galloway
    Filmmaker in Residence, IRP

  3. 3 Muthu September 4, 2009 at 9:23 am

    Thanks you very much….


  1. 1 The business of human smuggling on the mexican border … | Headlines Today Trackback on August 22, 2009 at 10:16 am

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