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Rand study finds human trafficking a lucrative business for Central American criminals

FPI / June 12, 2019

More than 60 percent of illegal immigrants pay a trafficker to get them into the United States, according to a new Rand Corporation report.

Central American migrant caravan passing by Chiapas, Mexico in 2018. / UN photo

In Central American nations, crime lords, gangs, and small-time operators make up to $2.3 billion a year moving illegals across the border, making it one of the most profitable businesses in Central America, the Rand report said.

The immigrants pay the smugglers $3,000-$10,000 each and can choose “pay as you go” or “all-inclusive” packages that include travel from their home, not just through Mexico, said the report.

The report, titled Human Smuggling and Associated Revenues, was funded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Additionally, the Rand report said that taxes totaling up to $180 million are charged by drug lords to human traffickers using their routes into the U.S.

The report said that there is no dominant type of trafficker smuggling migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Instead, it is a mix of crime lords and small operators. So-called “transnational criminal organizations” are not the main players.

“We learned that human smuggling involves many different types of actors and that we could not credibly distinguish most criminal organizations’ activities and revenues from those of other actors, including ad hoc groups and independent operators, that engage in human smuggling,” said Victoria Greenfield, the report’s lead author.

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