We hear a lot about human trafficking and the unprecedented number of illegal crossings that have occurred during Biden’s presidency, but we haven’t heard much about the smugglers who bring migrants to the United States and help them to make illegal crossings.

Although they may seem to be similar crimes, migrant smuggling and human trafficking are very different.

Migrant smugglers are paid by the migrants to assist them in traveling to the United States and with making an illegal entry. Human traffickers exploit migrants by selling them to people who want to use them for such things as prostitution, forced labor, a form of slavery, or to remove and sell their organs.

No one has comprehensive data on the prevalence of migrant smuggling globally or into the United States, but the information that is available indicates that it is a serious problem.

The first — and to date, only — study on the prevalence of migrant smuggling was performed in 2018, by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). UNODC studied 30 major smuggling routes and concluded that at least 2.5 million migrants were smuggled in 2016, for an economic return of between $5.5 billion and $7 billion.

ICE also has found that transnational criminal organizations are making billions of dollars from their smuggling operations.

Transnational criminal organizations

Interpol says that migrant smuggling organizations are run like businesses, drawn by the high profit margins and the relatively low risk of arrest and prosecution.

Interpol has seen an increase in the activities of transnational smuggling networks.

And migrant smuggling has become more sophisticated. While some migrants and smugglers make contact face-to-face, most of the smuggling process now is carried out online. Transnational criminal organizations use the internet or dark web to recruit, communicate, and advertise their services. And they use it to gather real-time information on their smuggling routes.

Administration’s efforts to deal with migrant smuggling


Published originally on The Hill.

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an Executive Branch Immigration Law Expert for three years. He subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years. Follow him at https://nolanrappaport.blogspot.com