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Tags: mexico | cartels | united states | human | trafficking

Cartels Offer $6K VIP 'Ticket' Into US From Mexico

By    |   Thursday, 20 June 2024 12:05 PM EDT

Despite being riddled with vermin and filth, the dark and narrow tunnel that connects Ciudad Juárez in Mexico to El Paso, Texas, is one of the most highly sought-after routes for migrants able to pay for a VIP “ticket” into the United States.

Those who can afford to take the tunnel route will pay at least $6,000 to the cartels, according to top Mexican state authorities, federal law enforcement officials on both sides of the border, and migrants waiting to cross the Rio Grande who spoke with USA Today.

A migrant smuggler named Ricardo told the outlet he has charged up to $15,000 to access the route.

For VIPs, everything hinges on a code the cartels provide them with that identifies which “travel agency” cartel they are working with. Frequently delivered via cellphone, these codes ensure that VIP migrants are not hassled by local police or rival cartels on their journey.

A senior Mexican official who spoke with USA Today said an ongoing joint investigation by Mexican and U.S. authorities found that one Juárez-based cartel, La Linea, has been smuggling at least 1,000 migrants per month through the drainage network into El Paso.

Experts say there has been a shift in the focus of criminal syndicates, who have moved away from trafficking drugs in favor of trafficking humans.  

“Criminals have shifted from their primary business, which was drug trafficking,” Arturo Velasco, head of the anti-kidnapping unit at the Chihuahua attorney general’s office, told USA Today. “Now 60-70% of their focus is migrant smuggling.”

“A kilo of cocaine might bring in $1,500, but the risk is very high,” he added. “The cost-benefit of trafficking a person is $10,000, $12,000, $15,000.”

The VIP transit system relies on a continually flowing stream of bribes from the city’s police force to high-level Mexican immigration bureaucrats, according to migrants and government officials.

“Corruption in Juárez, or in any other Mexican border city, must be in collusion with authorities,” Oscar Hagelsieb, former assistant special agent in charge of the city’s U.S. Homeland Security Investigations unit, said.

Velasco told USA Today that Mexican National Guard and immigration authorities hand migrants over to cartels and sell migration permits, which allow legal travel through Mexico.

“From inside shelters, they, along with officials from the National Institute of Migration, send information on people and then, outside, these people are abducted by criminal groups,” he said.

In Juárez, the local police are a key component of migrant smuggling operations, Velasco said.

When asked by USA Today, Juárez Police Chief Cesar Omar Muñoz Morales denied allegations of corruption and said it’s “difficult and complicated” to “address things that are not formally documented.”

“It’s tough to respond to your question when there are no formal complaints for our department to follow-up on,” Muñoz said. “We’re doing the best we can.”

Migrants flock to Ciudad Juárez from all over the world, with some, like the Chinese, paying staggeringly high fees of up to $75,000 for a VIP package, Ricardo said.

Those who run out of money find themselves camping out on the banks of the Rio Grande, where they say they feel like hostages, caught between wanting to stay away from the cartels but within sight of the United States.

Andrés, a 25-year-old Venezuelan, told USA Today he was getting desperate after his cartel travel agency stopped responding to him when he ran out of money.

The way he saw it, his only option would be to jump over or crawl through the concertina wire barrier and evade Texas National Guardsmen before reaching U.S. immigration authorities.

Nicole Wells

Nicole Wells, a Newsmax general assignment reporter covers news, politics, and culture. She is a National Newspaper Association award-winning journalist.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


Newsfront
Despite being riddled with vermin and filth, the dark and narrow tunnel that connects Ciudad Juárez in Mexico to El Paso, Texas, is one of the most highly sought-after routes for migrants able to pay for a VIP "ticket" into the United States.
mexico, cartels, united states, human, trafficking
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2024-05-20
Thursday, 20 June 2024 12:05 PM
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