Immigration “wolves” are taking an increased amount of children across the United States-Mexico border, and thousands of unaccompanied minors are being detained. Many of these children are fleeing Mexico because their families are already in the U.S., and they want to avoid street gang conscription with the Cartel and other organized street gangs in Central America. Mexico is not the only country these children are leaving, some come from as far as El Salvador to create a better life for themselves in the United States. When these children are caught and detained, it becomes more of a humanitarian issue of what to do with them.
Over 50,000 underage migrants have been detained during immigration attempts in just the past eight months. Approximately 20 percent of all detainees are unaccompanied minors, and this number is on an alarming rise. Border Patrol holding facilities were not made to handle this large an influx of people, many of them children or young mothers, who are children themselves and travelling with unruly toddlers. The immigration holding stations do not have enough room, let alone showers, beds or a recreational area for rambunctious children to run around. When there is an overabundance of detainees, it causes long delays in processing. Some children are being held for up to 10 days before they are processed and officials are able to successfully find an adult family member who can take them in until their immigration court date appearance. Ideal Border Patrol holding time is 12 hours. When Lobos do not successfully smuggle the children into the U.S., the minors face hard days ahead under less than favorable conditions.
“El Lobo”, or wolf, and “El Pollero”, or coyote, are the terms used for a Mexican immigration smuggler. These specialized human traffickers, or Wolves, have seen immigration as a business opportunity and can make up to $2,500 taking children to the U.S. border. To cross the border is another possible $1,000 in fees. “If they’re small — 3 or 4 years old — I cross them in inner tubes one by one, to make sure they don’t fall out or drown. It only takes a few minutes,” one Lobo said in a recent NPR interview. The Wolves are chosen by reputation, so protecting underage clients gains them repeat business; however not all Lobos are so philanthropic.
Much of the Wolve’s human smuggling trade has been taken over by the Mexican Cartels, and with young women and children as immigration clients, some may never make it across the U.S. border or face violence when they finally arrive at their drop houses. Wolves are being taken over by the Cartels because they have better communication devices and transportation as well as relationships with corrupt Border Patrol officers. They are able to smuggle humans and drugs simultaneously. With the rising instance of the Cartels intervening on good Lobos, kidnapping and deaths are on the rise. Although having a guide greatly increases the chances of survival, now that the Cartels have taken over the business, people from Central America could be better off getting a visa and going through the legal immigration process.
By Sarah Gallagher