If you’ve watched the news in the last couple of years, you probably know that President Trump has been lobbying for a border wall with Mexico since he was a candidate. The idea is that it will stop people from smuggling drugs into the United States and thereby help reduce our drug problem. Unfortunately, most of the drugs that enter the U.S. actually do so through legal ports of entry, via passenger or commercial vehicles. What’s interesting – and horrifying – is that what’s really being smuggled illegally into the U.S. by drug cartels is people.

Up until 2009, there were nearly 50 cartels in Mexico. In 2010, however, two major players stepped in and took over the market. Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel are considered two of the most sophisticated and dangerous drug cartels in Mexico. They not only manufacture and distribute illegal drugs, but they kidnap and smuggle immigrants. Recognizing the potential value in extorting those who would attempt to cross the border illegally, they took over human smuggling operations and began using the migrants to traffic drugs. These migrants also fall victim to sexual exploitation and forced labor once reaching the U.S.

The simplest explanation for why drug lords would be interested in human trafficking is that it’s profitable. Not only do they have expendable people transporting their drugs into the U.S., but if they do make it, the cartels are able to further profit off their labor. These cartels have money, weapons, and manpower, and they usually have law enforcement and government officials in their pockets. In one case, the leader of the Gulf Cartel was arrested in a raid, only to be released two days later when a Mexican judge ruled that his detention was illegal, despite the fact that both the Mexican navy and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration were well aware of his activities. It’s hardly the first time this has happened – there’s a long history in Mexico of people involved with the cartels being released from prison due to the mysterious disappearance of evidence or judges finding supposed procedural flaws.

DRUGS AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Ironically, attempts to crack down on the production and distribution of drugs have led the cartels to look at other sources of income, which has resulted in more instances of piracy, kidnapping, human trafficking, and child pornography. As of 2014, Mexico was on track to becoming the largest source of human trafficking in Latin America.

All of this isn’t to say that there aren’t still some drugs coming into the U.S. by way of illegal immigrants, but the sad truth is that many of these people are carrying drugs unwillingly. Just as the cartels have no problem exploiting women’s bodies sexually, they’re just as likely to force them to swallow or otherwise conceal drugs during their trek across the border.

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