Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Latin American Studies Program


Ben W. Fallaw

Second Advisor

Lindsay Mayka


Human smuggling at the southwest border has undergone a series of dramatic changes following the advent of militarized enforcement after 9/11. These changes have culminated in drug cartels becoming involved in the market for human smuggling as service providers. This role constitutes a massive departure from the traditional working dynamics of the market, and has created a human rights crisis with far-reaching implications. Accordingly, this thesis attempts to answer the following questions: Why are Mexican drug cartels entering into human smuggling? What part has U.S immigration policy had in incentivizing their involvement? When did their involvement begin? To answer these questions, I provide an in-depth analysis of human smuggling based on research that I compiled in the city of El Paso, TX during the month of January. I then use that analysis to construct a causal model that links militarization to cartel involvement in human smuggling. I argue that by increasing both the cost as well as the demand for coyotes at the Mexican border, the United States has inadvertently created a lucrative niche for cartels within the market for human smuggling.


Immigration, Public Policy, Human Smuggling, Drug Cartels

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