Friday, December 14, 2007

Women are the New Coyotes

Source: Corbis

From the New America Media:

Experts, authorities and the smugglers themselves agree that human trafficking networks are entering a new era, in which women have ceased to be the victims – smuggled across the border and often raped along the journey – and have become the ones that pull the strings in smuggling people ("goats," "chickens" or "furniture,” as they call the undocumented). "The old story of the man who runs the ‘coyotaje’ business is now just a myth. It’s finally coming out that the big business of human trafficking is in female hands.

As long as they make it known that they are women, they have lots of business all along the border," explains Marissa Ugarte, a psychologist, lecturer and founder of the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition of San Diego, Calif. "The business is a real money-maker," says Ramón Rivera, a DHS spokesperson in Washington, D.C. “These women inspire confidence in the immigrants and when the authorities stop them and take them to court, they give them shorter sentences because they are mothers, daughters, because they are women. But when they get out, they go right back to doing the same thing, or worse – they start going into other areas."

Female coyotes say they run these risks to avoid poverty and for the love of their children.

"We all got into this business out of necessity. Some of us are single mothers, and others have husbands in jail. The fact of the matter is that we’re all on our own. What bastards are gonna blame us for what we do? Who wouldn’t do the same thing if the miserable pay you get in a factory couldn’t be stretched far enough to feed your kids, and you find you can get twice the money for just giving a drink or taking care of a goddamn ‘chicken’ (an undocumented migrant)? Anybody who blames us has never seen their kids cry out of hunger," affirms Esperanza, who smuggles undocumented migrants, money and narcotics in the Nogales, Ariz. region.

But others say drugs and a lust for power are the real forces that drive women to enter the U.S.-Mexico trafficking business. Nearly 90 percent of the women arrested at the Mexican border on smuggling charges are drug addicts, according to the organization Integral Family Development in Nogales.

"No matter how needy you might be, if you are an honest person, you’re not going to get involved in illegal activities. Women like to brag about being more sensitive, more honest and protective (than men) – and that’s not true with these women. Saying they’re doing it for their children is just a pretext. It’s really because they don’t have enough money to feed their addiction," says Susana Padilla Gómez, director of the organization Integral Family Development on the border between Arizona and Sonora, Mexico.

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