Due to the illegal nature of the drug business, drug cartels have used violence in order to secure their influence. The more structural form of violence that is produced by the drug cartels at the border between US and Mexico is associate with migration. Drug cartels have taken over the business of transporting illegal migrants over the border from family-run coyote businesses, and the result has been an escalation of violence in border towns.
Drugs cartels have been causing violence in Mexico since the country became a transport hub for cocaine and marijuana (Castillo et al. 2). The violence escalated after Florida was shut down as the major drug transport hub (Dhywood 50). In order to secure territory, spend illegally-obtained currency, and maintain control, drug cartels result to violence (Beittel 2) and bribery of political officials and the police to not stand in their way (Bagley). Recently, Mexican drug cartels entered the business of human trafficking, using illegal migrants to carry drugs over the northern border.

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United States continuously steps up its drug war efforts and cartels are looking for new ways to penetrate the border. Cartels started to use those wanting to migrate to US as drug mules. Since the lowest transportation fee for crossing the border on foot is $3,000-$4,000, those who are unable to afford the steep price choose to carry the drugs over the border as an exchange for passage. In such an arrangement drug cartels win as well since they would typically pay $8,000 to a mule to carry a backpack of marijuana and the fees for cocaine and heroin are much steeper. Since illegal migrants have a 10-20% chance of being caught and there is an estimated 4 million that cross into US undetected each year, trading carrying drugs for passage is a financially advantageous option for both drug cartels and those willing to come to the US (Klenowski).

Government corruption and increase in drug cartel activity is causing more people to flee and if they use the crossing services offered by the cartels they further escalate the violence in the country. Many who left are not willing to come back because the passage becomes much more dangerous and costly every year (Durand & Massey 23). Those who migrate to escape violence are not able to come back since the violence keeps escalating further with increased drug cartel activity.

“Mexico’s homicide rates have increased every year since 2004– as a result of increases in territorial fights between drug cartels. From December of 2006 to 2010, 34,550 killings have been officially linked to organized crime, a dramatic increase from …2000 when only 8,901 killings were linked to organized crime” (Rios 6). Since the drug cartels bribe police officers, the people no longer see the police force as their protectors, so they turn to their own means. In Mexican border towns, citizens created their own security forces in order to oppose the traffickers (Guerrero), causing a further escalation of violence.

Those who were not able to endure, fled. Increased presence of drug cartels in border towns due to their takeover of coyote businesses has caused an increase in internal displacement and migration abroad. Since 2011, 281,418 people were internally displaced in Mexico as a result of drug cartel violence. Border areas of Tamaulipas and Coahuila experienced some of the highest levels of displacement and migration. These movements are largely mass in nature, where a group of ten or more families from the same town makes a decision to leave (En México 281 mil 418 Personas son Víctimas del Desplazamiento Interno Forzado por la Violencia).

Mexican citizens who are escaping violence are able to cross the US border can do so in two ways: as refugees or undocumented migrants hoping to obtain asylum status after crossing. According to 1951 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Convention’s 1967 refugee definition, Mexican citizens escaping violence at home are classified as refugees of violence. However, refugee status is difficult to obtain because proof of being targeted and inability to relocate within the country are required. Out of 8,840 asylum applications in 2014 only 124 were approved for refugee status (Ranye).

The violence that presence of drug cartels causes is highly visible with the number of homicides related to drug cartel activity ranging in tens of thousands every year. However, the less visible and structured form of violence is caused by the cartels’ take-over of the transport of illegal migrants over the border. Since the fees are so high, refugee status is difficult to obtain, and the violence persists in their towns, Mexican citizens have little choice but to carry drugs over the border as an exchange for passage. As more and more migrants utilize this service, drug cartels’ presence persists in communities causing cyclical violence in border towns.

  • Bagley, Bruce. “Drug trafficking and organized crime in the Americas.” Woodrow Wilson Center Update of the Americas, 2012. http://www.as.miami.edu/ Accessed 2 Dec. 2017.
  • Beittel, June S. Mexico’s Drug Trafficking Organizations: Source and Scope of the Rising Violence. DIANE Publishing, 2011.
  • Castillo, Juan Camilo, Daniel Mejia, and Pascual Restrepo. “Illegal drug markets and violence in
    Mexico: The causes beyond Calderón.” Universidad de los Andes typescript, 2013.
  • Dhywood, Jeffrey. World War-D: The Case Against Prohibitionism. A Roadmap to Controlled Re-legalization. Columbia Communications Inc., 2011.
  • Durand, Jorge, and Douglas S. Massey, eds. Crossing the border: Research from the Mexican Migration Project. Russell Sage Foundation, 2004.
  • “En México 281 mil 418 Personas son Víctimas del Desplazamiento Interno Forzado por la Violencia” CMDPDH. 26 Feb. 2015. http://cmdpdh.org/
  • Guerrero, Hector. “Mexico Legalizes Vigilante Groups in Michoacan, Welcomes Them in Fight Against Drug Cartels.” CBS News. 28 Jan. 2014. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/mexicos-vigilantes-legalized-and-put-under-militaryumbrella/. Accessed 2 Dec. 2017.
  • Klenowski, Paul M. “Drug Trafficking.” Immigration to United States. http://immigrationtounitedstates.org/
  • Ranye, Adam and Valeria Fernandez. “Mexican Asylum Seekers Try to Beat the Odds in US.” Al Jazeera. 15 Jun. 2015. http://www.aljazeera.com/
  • Ríos, Viridiana. “Security Issues and Immigration Flows: Drug-violence Refugees, the New Mexican Immigrants.” Latin American Research Review, vol. 49, 2012, http://www.gov.harvard.edu/