Illegal immigration may appear to be a simple issue. Most Americans agree that the U.S. government should accept only migrants who go through the proper legal process if they wish to reside in the United States, and those who seek to subvert the law should be stopped. But in reality this has always been a multifaceted issue. While individuals on the left and the right might argue over certain details, such as the crime rate among illegals and the economic factors, one aspect cannot be refuted: the problem of human trafficking. Many who enter the United States illegally are transported by smugglers — also known as “coyotes” — to find work and a better life. But some are being led into the country under more nefarious pretenses, such as being sold into slavery and sex work.
A part of the problem that the left has not addressed adequately is the plight of the people making the journey to the southern border and the motivations of those leading them. In some cases, reports have minimized the dangers faced by migrants and have made smugglers/traffickers appear more heroic than the data suggest.
CBS News recently released a documentary titled “Border Business: Inside Immigration,” which chronicles the hardships many endure while traveling to the United States. One segment discusses the coyotes who assist those in their attempt to reach America. But the portrayal of the coyotes is less than honest.
Coyotes as Humanitarians?
The documentary tells the story of Emerson Gonzalez, a Panamanian national who helps immigrants from South America travel north. While he usually charges $700 to guide people through dangerous terrain, he sometimes lowers the cost for those who cannot afford his services. “I helped a lot of people, particularly women with children,” he said. “Because many have passed through here and not made it.”
CBS News paints a sympathetic picture of Gonzalez and people like him, implying that they are simply looking to supplement their paltry income by helping illegals navigate through “poisonous snakes, jaguars, and severe weather.”
“Most people think we (smugglers) are bad,” Gonzalez said. “But if a person needs to go from there to here, and can’t do it … and they tell me, ‘I’m going to pay you five, ten, 20 dollars … to take me to whatever location.’ And if I didn’t have a job at the time … to me, that’s good.”
But those who are familiar with this issue understand that this portrayal is less than accurate, and while some smugglers do not victimize their clients, it has been shown that many more subject their charges — many of which are women and minors — to brutal treatment.
The Real Story About Coyotes
The coyotes in CBS’ documentary might be exactly as they portray themselves — but if this is the case, the data suggest they might be in the minority. The trek from South America to the United States is indeed perilous; travelers must contend with potential starvation and harsh conditions. But many — especially women and children =– are also subject to brutal abuse at the hands of the transporters.
Those who make the trip are often beaten, raped, and robbed by coyotes looking for more than just a payday. Sexual violence against women and minors is especially common. Chris Cabrera, a Customs and Border Patrol agent, told The Los Angeles Times that young girls traveling to the United States are on birth control because it is expected that they will be sexually assaulted multiple times during the trip. “When you see a 12-year-old girl with a Plan B pill or her parents put her on birth control because they know getting violated is part of the journey, that’s a terrible way to live,” he said.
It is estimated that about 80% of females were victims of sexual assault while traveling to the United States. Some suffer a worse fate: being kidnapped and sold as sex slaves without ever reaching the border. However, a disturbing number of these individuals are enslaved upon crossing the border. Traffickers lure both men and women with promises of a better life, then after entering the country, they sell them to Americans for forced labor and compelled sex work.
In short, a majority of coyotes are not otherwise decent people who are breaking only American immigration laws; they are vicious predators who abuse those they claim to help. For this reason, it is puzzling that CBS News would feel the need to downplay this reality; not only is it untrue but also it only contributes to the problem. Unfortunately, it appears that promoting a narrative is more important than addressing evil.