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Border Crackdown Drives Up Immigrant Smuggling

Let’s see what Lou Dobbs makes of this one: turns out the crackdown on border crossings by undocumented immigrants has actually led to an increase in the violent smuggling, kidnapping and ransoms demanded for delivering undocumented workers into the United States.

Joel Millman at The Wall Street Journal reports today on a major shift away from the traditional crossings of seasonal laborers, who may have once paid a small sum to a “coyote” to help them cross the border, towards a Mexican gang-driven trade that’s led to a proliferation of “drop-houses” in the United States, particularly in Arizona, where border enforcement in the desert has been less successful than in California and Texas. There are reportedly about a thousand such “drop houses” in Arizona now.

Gang members hold immigrants hostage at these houses until either the immigrants or their future employers pay up. In one recent case, The Journal reports, “the men were being shaken down for as much as $5,000 apiece, a ransom above the $1,000 that each had agreed to pay before being spirited across the border.”

So far, the Department of Homeland Security has been addressing border violence as largely a law enforcement problem. The growing impact on immigrants, however, could create more pressure on the Obama administration to legalize the border crossings of some foreign workers as part of a broader plan for comprehensive immigration reform that immigrants’ rights groups and even labor unions have been advocating.

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