Human smugglers operate on US-Mexico border, as wall gets enhancements

World Today

Construction work is underway on parts of the existing border wall and some of it will be made higher.

Border agencies hope the wall will help maintain the integrity of the border but that might not be the case.

CGTN’s Dan Williams reports from the Mexican city of Tijuana.

A section of a wall in Tijuana, separating the United States and Mexico, sits along the sea. In some places, the structure stretches up some 5.5 metres. 

But Pancho Lopez makes scaling the boundary look easy. In seconds, he is sitting on top of the fence.

He is helping a family from Central America cross the border in order for them to claim asylum with U.S. authorities.

A mother is helped up first. She pauses unsure whether she can continue. Before she is eased over the top carefully avoiding the razor wire. A child follows. The father pushes while Pancho hauls him up. A baby is passed through the fence before the father joins them at the top.

Within three minutes, the whole operation is complete.

The family are on their way to meet border control.

“The only thing I did is to help some people with their kids because they are crossing to the other side,” said Lopez, a human smuggler. “They are going to ask for asylum. For what I see, when you go with your entire family, if they go with kids, I think they are giving them asylum.”

Pancho does not describe himself as a smuggler or a coyote. Those, he said, are people who can charge thousands of dollars to help migrants reach a city undetected.

Pancho said he charges around $80 a person for his services. Authorities, however, would call his actions criminal at any price and there are currently no plans to extend the wall through this area.

Efren Galindo Guevara’s story demonstrates how quickly events can change at the hands of smugglers.

“I paid a coyote 3,500 and he crossed me. We walked for about six days. He told us I’ll be back, I am going to the rest room and he never did return,” Guevara said.

After capture by authorities, Efren was released back into Mexico where he was then picked up by a gang, and held for 10,000 U.S. dollars’ ransom.

Williams asked Efren if building the wall higher will stop the coyotes, but he thinks that people are still going to attempt to cross and more money will be charged.

The view that a wall won’t have the desired effect is echoed by Lopez.

“The people will try to find a way to get in, from one way or another. It doesn’t matter if they put one thousand barriers,” Lopez said.

And as work continues on building new higher walls at costs projected into the billions questions remain as to whether it’s worth it.