Life on the Line: The Arizona-Mexico Border

Philip Caputo in the Virginia Quarterly Review:

Caputo00The smuggling of human contraband into the US would be a Fortune 500 industry if it were legitimate. Run by sophisticated and well-organized rings, it rakes in anywhere from ten to fifteen billion dollars a year. Mexicans, who account for roughly 90 percent of the total, are charged on average $1,500 a head. The remaining 10 percent are known, in the argot of immigration enforcement, as OTMs—Other Than Mexicans—and most of them are Central Americans and Brazilians. Because transporting OTMs over more than one border involves greater risks, logistical difficulties, and expenses (read, bribes), the fees are proportionally higher. Eduardo’s would be $8,000. The coyote said that $6,000 would be due on the day Eduardo left, with the remainder to be paid upon his safe arrival in the United States.

It took three years to scrape the money together. Finally, in December 2004, Eduardo left his wife and everything and everyone he’d known—to lay sod and plant shrubs in the lawns of Pennsylvania. He didn’t know where Pennsylvania was, but the coyote had promised him that los Estados Unidos was a golden land where he would get back on his feet.

More here.