Alien Smuggling Is Big Business
By James P. Tucker Jr.
The major industry in the town of Altar, Mexico, is smuggling illegal aliens
into the United States. It is the only industry of any visibility or significance.
This dusty town, from where aliens can travel 60 miles over back roads to enter the United States, is the last stop to buy supplies: water, food and backpacks already supplied with toilet paper and other items.
“Altar is just like a big Wal-Mart for smugglers,” said Sean King, spokesman for the Tucson, Ariz., sector of the U.S. Border Patrol, which seizes many of those crossing into the United States.
“They’ve got booths set up for backpacks that are pre-packed with toilet paper. . . shoes that are better to walk in than some of the [sandals] they might be wearing—everything you need to come across the border,” King told Knight Ridder news service.
There are no holidays in Altar. On any given day 1,600 people show up from all over Mexico. In April, the peak season, 3,000 arrived every day, according to officials who operate a Catholic shelter there.
They are lured there by “Coyotes” who charge them $2,000 to $4,000 for a chance to cross the most difficult stretch of desert along the U.S.-Mexican border. They are stuffed like sardines into $3-a-night flophouses
or, for those who can afford it, into hotels that charge $30 to $40 for 12 hours.
Before heading north, many immigrants kneel in prayer before a statue of Jesus in Our Lady Of Guadalupe Church (below). Then they silently march, in groups of 30 to 40, into vans rigged to hold a maximum of human cargo. Metal benches run down the sides and center. Cages at head level secure their backpacks for the bumpy, $15 journey to the outskirts of Sasabe, Mexico, the chosen point of entry and the busiest zone on the border for U.S. authorities.
Some who criminally cross the borders find, for them, a good life of tending manicured lawns or working in farming and construction. Others end up dead or get thrown back across the border.
The smuggling industry is tightly controlled on both sides of the border. Mountains of marijuana flow through. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram spotted an 18-wheeler off-loading heavy burlap sacks recently on an isolated dirt road that large trucks would have little reason to use for legal commerce.
(Issue #29 & 30, July 17 & 24, 2006)