The dangers human smuggling brings to southern Arizona

Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 10:43 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Arizona is at the center of immigration as law enforcement deals with an influx of migrants and the crimes that go with it. According to law enforcement, with that increase in asylum seekers and illegal border crossers comes a rise in human smuggling.

Recent reports show migrants arriving at the state’s southern border have reached around 19,000 daily.

Cpl. Scott Borgstadt with the Sierra Vista Police Department said criminal organizations like the cartel are preying on migrants and young drivers, promising easier access to the United States and money.

“They don’t view these people as people, as individuals they are a commodity and that is it,” Cpl. Borgstadt said. “Strictly a commodity. How can they make money by bringing these people across? If a few of them die along the way I guess that’s the cost of doing business in their mind.”

A dangerous pursuit involving a suspected human smuggler was all caught on camera, as the ongoing issue of smuggling continues to plague southern Arizona, putting more and more lives in danger.

“No, this isn’t victimless,” Cpl. Borgstadt said. “People are losing their lives over this.”

Borgstadt said human smuggling is putting entire communities in jeopardy. Since smugglers have only one mission he said human life is often disregarded.

“What happened was the vehicle drove off in the weeds, very dry weeds, of course you have a hot engine, it started a brush fire,” Cpl. Borgstadt said. “What the deputies found out is there were people inside the trunk of that vehicle they weren’t able to get to for a long time.”

According to Sheriff Mark Daniels of the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, this was just one of the 270 human smuggling situations sheriffs responded to this year. He adds this causes danger for everyone involved.

Art Del Cueto, the Vice President of the National Border Patrol Council, tells 13 News that the cartels are focusing their recruitment efforts on young teens. He said they are reaching out via social media like TikTok and Snapchat, promising a quick cash return.

Del Cueto said it’s important to remember these are criminal organizations with the only goal of making money.

“The drug cartels, the people involved in this criminal element, they don’t care who they recruit,” Del Cueto said. “They don’t care whose lives they affect. Realistically, they don’t care what side of the aisle people are standing on when it comes to politics.”

Borgstadt agrees. He said since January, his officers initiated 33 different human smuggling cases, where 28 arrests were made.

“What we found is these folks won’t stop speeding, running through traffic, going in opposite sides of traffic, opposing lanes of traffic,” Cpl. Borgstadt said. It’s extremely dangerous. We have had several accidents because of those situations. "

According to Del Cueto, this is very frustrating since many times the smugglers go without consequences and prosecution, adding to the problem.

“The drug cartels are the ones that know what is coming across. They are going to direct the traffic,” Del Cueto said. “They know where or where not to cross. That is where the dangers come across because, at the end of the day, it’s a criminal mindset that is in charge of it.”

Borgstadt said the county is dedicated to tackling the issue.

“Cochise County is very serious about this situation,” Cpl. Borgstadt said. “I mean all of Cochise County. All of Cochise County law enforcement. Everyone from local, state, and federal agencies take this very seriously.”

Law enforcement said it’s also important for people in the community to say something if they see something, as this can be useful in bringing forth more arrests.

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