Sunday, June 26, 2022

Border Dispatch, Part II: ‘The Cartel Controls Everything Here Now’: The ongoing border crisis has transformed illegal immigration into an industrial-scale international smuggling black market.

Emily Jashinsky 
It’s easy to find gut-wrenching stories at the border. Ask almost any migrant you meet in northern Mexico and you’ll hear about the violence and hardships they endured to get as far as they have.
Alba Luz Perdomo, for example, fled Honduras with her husband and 13-year-old daughter after a gang killed her brother and threatened to kill them too. But that was just the beginning of their troubles.
They were forced to leave a farm where they had been working in the southern Mexican state of Tabasco by locals who told them foreigners weren’t welcome. In Monterrey, Perdomo’s daughter was nearly abducted by their landlord. They sought help from a man claiming to be a pastor in Matamoros, but who turned out to be a human trafficker and kept the family in his house for 20 days before they managed to escape.
Now they’re living in a migrant shelter in Matamoros, just across the river from Brownsville, Texas. But they’re afraid to leave the walled compound of the shelter because the local cartel keeps trying to recruit her husband. Perdomo says she doesn’t want to cross the border illegally, but doesn’t know what to do. “I’m asking God to do something,” she says, “because this is horrible.”
It’s impossible not to feel sympathy for this woman and her family. Their story is shockingly commonplace among migrants stuck in Mexican border towns like Matamoros and Reynosa, where I recently traveled with a pair of colleagues, Emily Jashinsky and David Agren, to better understand the ongoing border crisis. (Read part one of this series here.)
But too often, sympathetically conveying these stories — many of which are impossible to verify — is the extent of the media’s coverage of the crisis. It makes for a compelling read and, especially when President Donald Trump was in office, a just-so morality tale complete with villains and victims and a heroic struggle for justice. For left-leaning reporters, it confirms all their prior assumptions about the anti-immigrant bigotry of Trump and his supporters, and the bravery and nobility of the migrants (and, by extension, of themselves).
Of course, such biased coverage has the effect of obscuring the causes of the crisis and clouding our understanding of how it’s playing out. But looking beyond the personal stories of hardship and suffering we usually see in the corporate press — and beyond the outrage-driven coverage we often see in conservative media — we can discern the outlines of an entire black market industry around illegal immigration that’s been created and sustained by U.S. border policy, which cartels and smugglers are using to enrich themselves at the expense of migrants and the American people alike.
Consider the story of Ramon and his wife Veronica and their two-year-old daughter. They left Nicaragua, Ramon told us, because of poverty. We spoke to them on a recent weekday afternoon at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement drops off nearly everyone it discharges from federal custody in that area. They had just been released that morning along with about 70 others.
Their story, like many others on the border, is terrifying. When Ramon and Veronica and their daughter reached Reynosa, their bus was stopped at a cartel checkpoint and they were asked for a code. (When migrants pay off the cartel they get a code. That’s how the cartel keeps track of who’s paid and who hasn’t.) --->LOTS MORE HERE
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