EL PASO Shelters Sound Alarm on Cartel Exploitation of Migrants

Cartel members in the El Paso region of Texas are taking advantage of vulnerable migrants, treating them as commodities for profit, according to directors from two local nonprofits. Nicole Reulet, director of marketing at the Rescue Mission of El Paso, emphasized that cartels view migrants as products to be profited from, rather than as human beings. She called the situation a humanitarian crisis that extends far beyond the city. John Martin, director of the Opportunity Center for the Homeless, echoed Reulet’s concerns, stating that the most vulnerable individuals are being targeted.

The cartels have seen their profits soar in recent years, with an increase in their lucrative operations smuggling migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border. Extortion and increased fees during the migrants’ dangerous journeys are common tactics used by the cartels. If migrants cannot afford the costs, they are often forced into drug trafficking or other exploitative activities to repay their debts. This dire situation is particularly evident for migrants who travel through the treacherous Darién Gap in Panama.

Reulet described the Darién Gap as a dangerous jungle controlled by the cartels, where migrants face the constant risk of violence and death. She recounted witnessing a migrant showing her a video of their family members being brutally murdered with machetes. The psychological trauma experienced by migrants subjected to such horrific treatment is immeasurable.

Reulet also highlighted the trust issues faced by these traumatized migrants, as they must carefully consider every decision they make to ensure their safety. Despite the dangers and sacrifices involved, migrants continue to undertake the perilous journey in search of a better life in America. However, the journey itself poses additional dangers, with many individuals not surviving the trip.

While the Biden administration has touted a decrease in migrant encounters since the expiration of Title 42, the reality on the ground is different. The two shelter directors confirmed that their facilities are still operating at or above capacity, even after the decrease in crossings. They stressed that the migration issue is a national problem and called for increased support and involvement from communities across the country.

It is crucial to address and combat the exploitation and abuse of migrants by cartels, as well as to provide comprehensive support and resources to these vulnerable individuals throughout their journey and upon arrival in the United States.


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