Back in 1992, only about 8 percent of illegal entry into the United States occurred at the Arizona border. Three quarters occurred near either San Diego or El Paso.
The people of those border regions had had quite enough, and the Clinton Administration listened. Fences were built, patrols beefed-up, infrared night scopes and motion sensors installed in those two areas. It worked. In El Paso, apprehensions fell by about 85 percent, in San Diego by over 75 percent.
The idea behind concentrating enforcement in these urban areas was, as Brewer explains, “to push illegal crossers into more remote areas where they would have to make long, arduous crossings and would presumably be easier to apprehend.” Unfortunately for Arizona, the prospect of a more difficult and dangerous journey to the US proved insufficient to deter illegals completely, especially once drug-related violence became endemic in their native land. So Arizona now receives about half of America’s illegal entrants.
In earlier days, a Mexican might, for a few hundred dollars, hire a “mom-and-pop” guide to help him across the border. But the increasing difficulty and danger of the task has raised the stakes. The contemporary smuggler, or “coyote,” charges two thousand dollars or more per person and leads groups of twenty, fifty or a hundred people at a time. This has attracted a far more brutalcriminal element to the business.
The trek is usually around sixty or seventy miles through some of the roughest terrain in America. “In remote areas of Arizona,” explains Gov. Brewer, “you can walk through the desert for hours without seeing any people, roads or buildings. There are rattlesnakes and scorpions. The sun is relentless and water is nonexistent.”
An injury—even a slight one—can mean the difference between life and death. Drug cartel coyotes think nothing of leaving behind the sick or injured, and the Border patrol routinely comes upon theirdecomposed remains. Since 2001, the bodies of more than 2100 men, women and children have been found.
The journey can take several days. Women may be raped. Men may be forced to serve as drug “mules,” carrying up to sixty pounds ofmarijuana strapped to their bodies.
The mountaintops round about are infested with hundreds of so-called spotters—cartel members who monitor smuggling routes with have GPS and night-vision goggles. Two to three hundred of these spotters are in the hills, often deep within US territory, at any given time. They use encrypted satellite radios to communicate with the “coyotes” leading human trains of drug mules across the desert, letting them know if it is safe to pass or if thieves, rivals or Border Patrol agents are on their route. Spotters are armed with high-powered weapons, including, in at least one case, shoulder-fired rocket launchers. If they see a US official or a rival gang member, they may simply report it—or they may shoot.
Once an illegal arrives, he is usually taken to a “drop house.” Phoenix area law enforcement has turned up 600 of these so far, many of them rented. One contained 108 illegal aliens. To prevent escapes, windows are boarded up and illegal aliens may be forced to remove their clothes. One night in 2008, Phoenix police received a bizarre report concerning fifty naked and bloodied people running down a street. They turned out to be a group of illegal aliens who had succeeded in overpowering their captors and breaking out of a drop house.
These houses are used for holding illegal aliens until smugglers have received enough money to let them go. This often means much more than the two to three thousand dollars typically agreed upon beforehand.
Many illegal aliens have working relatives in the US who can be subjected to extortion. One enterprising smuggler created a “torture room” within his drop house. He would call up a migrant’s US relatives and let them listen to the migrant being beaten and pleading for his life. Unsurprisingly, this technique proved highly profitable.
The sums involved have gotten so large that the criminals have begun to prey upon one another. In November 2003, one gang had its human cargo hijacked by a rival gang near Tucson. As the hijackers drove off, the original smugglers followed. It was rush hour, about eight thirty in the morning; a high speed chase ensued on I-10, the well-traveled main highway between Tucson and Phoenix. The smugglers gradually “pulled up alongside the hijackers and opened fire—still speeding up the freeway—with automatic weapons. The back and forth gunfight continued along the freeway for more than thirty miles” until held up by the Phoenix rush hour traffic. Four bodies were scattered along the I-10 median strip; one man was found crouched on the ground holding the toe which had gotten blown off his foot in the fight.
(V Dare, February 28, 2012).