It’s no secret that smugglers and organized crime cartels are making millions exploiting America’s porous southern border with Mexico, shuffling people, drugs, and money between the two countries.

But simple math suggests the exploding numbers of illegal immigrants coming into the U.S., multiplied by what they claim is the going rate for coyotes, may be funneling more money to bad hombres than most people realize.

Charlotte Cutherbertson, reporter with The Epoch Times covering border security, put together a rough calculation of how much the smuggling industry alone likely generated so far in fiscal year 2019, and it’s a lot.

“460,294 = Border Patrol apprehensions for first 7 months of FY19,” Cuthbertson posted to Twitter Tuesday. “$1,500 = low-end price per head paid to smugglers

“$690,440,000 = total paid to smugglers/cartels.

“This is a low estimate – illegal immigrants from some countries, such as China, pay up to $15k per head,” Cuthbertson wrote.

A report in The New York Times last summer confirms the calculation is in the ballpark and highlights how the cost has skyrocketed in recent years. The Times noted former homeland security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told lawmakers in May 2018 that migrants paid at least $500 million per year to smugglers in route to the U.S. That figure has undoubtedly increased along with the drastic spike in the numbers of migrants arriving at the border over the last six months.

“A decade ago, Mexicans and Central Americans paid between $1,000 and $3,000 for clandestine passage into the United States,” according to the Times. “Now they hand over up to $9,200 for the same journey, the Department of Homeland Security reported (in 2017). Those figures have continued to rise, according to interviews at migrant shelters in Mexico.”

The news site tracked the journey north for one young adult from San Salvador, El Salvador to Houston, Texas that cost a total of $12,630 in smuggling fees and bribes.

According to The Times:

He was vulnerable to criminals who might try to kidnap him, police officers seeking bribes and the more robust immigration enforcement that has taken root in recent years in southern Mexico. Under pressure from Washington, the Mexican government has cracked down on migrants passing through its territory. Because of the greater vigilance along the smuggling routes, between 80 and 95 percent of migrants bound for the United States used so-called coyotes in recent years, compared with fewer than half in the early 1970s, Border Patrol surveys of captured migrants found.

The man, identified only as “Mr. Cruz,” detailed the harrowing route through a hodge-podge of criminal stash houses and absurd travel accommodations – stacked like cord wood in pickups, hidden under car seats, stripped nearly nude during some stops to dissuade escape – that came with the premium price.

In many cases, Cruz said, the human cargo seemed less important than the shipments of cocaine, marijuana and other drugs that accompanied them, highlighting the other more profitable cartel enterprise that drives border profits into the billions. Estimates for cartel drug profits from the U.S. range between about $20 billion to $30 billion annually.

“If you ran out of money, that’s when they would offer to cross you as a mule,” Cruz told The Times.

Cruz now lives with his uncle somewhere in the U.S., $12,630 in debt and unable to legally hold a job, as he fantasizes about putting his young son, grandmother and sister through the same perilous journey.

“I dream of bringing them over here,” he told The Times.

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