The Deadly Cost of Human Smuggling

Packed into a trailer with no fresh air, water or food, the weekend discovery of a tractor-trailer filled with undocumented migrants in a Texas Walmart parking lot highlights the lengths that individuals will take to reach the U.S. and a new life.  But, the death of 10 would-be immigrants makes this the worst case of human smuggling in the U.S. in some time. While this particular instance had a very unfortunate outcome, it is not the only example, with other similar cases occurring regularly and recently.

Earlier this year (January 27, 2017) I wrote about Trump’s proposed border wall, and commented that individuals will find new routes into the country if the wall is built. Although the immigrants in this case likely did not cross the border in the truck, how they arrived in the U.S. is moot. Likewise, saying that a border wall would have stopped them is false – it wouldn’t have. Instead, their deaths highlights the desperation to leave their origin and try to enter the U.S. – the same situation that drives migrants to risk crossing the Mediterranean to enter Europe. For most immigrants, they are fleeing untenable situations where their life may be endangered, only to experience or risk violence, robbery, or death on-route to their destination, while paying huge sums of money (often several thousand dollars) to the smugglers that will help them on their journey. It also highlights the difficulty with securing borders and stopping undocumented entry. As a consequence, enhanced border security actually strengthens human smuggling networks given the greater need for assistance in entering a country.

The solution? It’s not easy. Greater vigilance is one, but there is also the need to ensure smugglers are prosecuted fully.

Further Reading:

David Montgomery, Manny Fernandez and Yonette Joseph. Journey Fatal for 9 Migrants Found in Truck in a San Antonio Parking Lot. The New York Times, 24 July 2017, p. A10. Available at:


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