Exclusive: Smugglers cash in on migrants attempting to enter US

Border Report

(NewsNation) —  Human smuggling along the border is a growing crisis. For law enforcement in southwest Arizona, it’s a daily occurrence.

It may come as a surprise that Americans are netting thousands of dollars smuggling migrants into the U.S. in often dangerous conditions.

In Cochise County, Arizona, while with the local sheriff’s office, NewsNation witnessed a smuggling attempt firsthand.

The Cochise County Sheriff’s Office is a force trying to uproot the human smuggling trade, which has taken hold in the community and appears to be a never-ending battle for law enforcement.

While riding along with Deputy Bobby Zavala, he pulled over a driver for illegally switching lanes. But for the 10-year veteran with the sheriff’s office, something looked out of place.

In the county that runs along the U.S.-Mexico border, Zavala had a hunch something was wrong.

Zavala approached the vehicle with a California license plate and asked how many people were inside. He said it’s rarely just a traffic stop.

In the car, Zavala found two U.S. citizens attempting to smuggle four migrants north to Phoenix. The going rate is over $2,000 per migrant smuggled into the county.

Were it not for a simple lane change violation, they would have been home free.

“I was bragging in 2020 about being one of the safest counties on the southwest border. Come up to current times I can’t say that no more,” Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannells said.

Dannells said over the last few years, the situation has deteriorated along the border. High-speed human smuggling car chases happen multiple times a day — and last year the Tucson sector led the whole border in migrants encountered who got away. Since July of last year, they’ve made an additional thousand or so arrests for border-related crimes.

“These are people who have run from us, fought with us, home invasion, murder, you name it, we’ve seen it,” Dannells said.

But many of those are state charges. Human smuggling is a federal crime. In the incident NewsNation witnessed, federal authorities did not charge the two smugglers. All the sheriff’s office got the driver for is his suspended license.

But none of this is new for Zavala. He says it keeps happening again and again and again.

“By the end of tonight’s shift, we will probably see about 10 of these types of vehicles,” Zavala said.

For many of the migrants picked up Tuesday night who tried to get smuggled into the United States, it was their second or third try.

Just this week, a deputy said a migrant told him, “I’ll just be back tomorrow.”

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