March 27, 2014
There is a booming business taking place on the U.S.-Mexico border: Human trafficking. Migrants who want to cross into the U.S. pay thousands of dollars to guides who use their knowledge of the land to bring them safely across while avoiding the border patrol. “Coyote” is the name given in the trade for the human smugglers who are responsible for the majority of the undocumented immigration across the Southwest border.
One of these coyotes is a 29-year-old woman named “Paula”, who lives in the border city of Piedras Negras, across from Eagle Pass, Texas. She says she’s been a coyote since she was 17 years old. In the 12 years of doing this line of work, she says she has only been caught by the Border Patrol four times. Each time, her clients tell the federal agent that she is just another undocumented immigrant and she gets released instead of being prosecuted as a human smuggler.
Paula and other coyotes make a very good living compared to the other economic opportunities available to them. In her case, clients will pay $1,500 to San Antonio or $1,800 to Houston, $300-400 of which goes to Paula for each client she smuggles. She usually makes a couple of trips a month.