Thanks to the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration, officials have made a startling discovery: The majority of people smuggling migrants into the country are not members of Mexican-based cartels, but are instead American citizens.
The Washington Post reports that more than 60 percent of people who have been convicted of human trafficking and smuggling in federal courts since President Trump has been in office are U.S. citizens.
In addition, the majority of those people had little or no prior criminal history, according to data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
The Post noted that smugglers have included truck drivers, oil-field workers, single mothers, and high school students, according to federal and state court records.
“It’s pretty lucrative if you can get away with it,” Brady Waikel, U.S. Border Patrol’s assistant chief agent in Del Rio, Texas, told the Post. “Nobody thinks they’re going to get caught.”
Noncitizens accounted for about 80 percent of convicted smugglers in the mid-1990s, when U.S. authorities were logging more than 1 million apprehensions at the border each year, according to the Sentencing Commission, the Post reported.
As the administration cracked down on border security, smuggling cartels turned to U.S. citizens because they are fluent in English and knew more about the local terrain and roads, allowing them to bypass U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints.
According to the Post, some of those caught said they did it to buy diapers, pay for college tuition, to resolve a debt, or as a favor.