SAN ANTONIO — Human smuggling is a lucrative business, from the organizations smuggling migrants from their home countries to the Mexican drug cartels controlling who travels across the border.
Migrants are shelling out tens of thousands of dollars to these criminal organizations who give them a false hope and promise of life in the U.S., and as soon as the migrants pay their fees, their lives are in immediate danger.
“They're being told that they'll have safe passage to United States and usually they even guarantee that they'll have some sort of employment once they get here, which is totally not the facts,” said retired Department of Homeland Security Special Agent, Timothy Tubbs.
Tubbs said that smugglers are making big money exploiting migrants and putting their lives in danger—for a profit.
“The facts are that they are put into very risky situations, and once they leave their home country, then they're in the hands of the smugglers,” said Tubbs.
Migrants from Mexico might pay anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000, according to Tubbs. Smuggling organizations charge Central and South Americans from $15,000 to $25,000.
“So, they’re making a lot of money putting people at risk,” said Tubbs.
The migrants now forced to follow the demands of the smugglers, start a treacherous journey to get to the U.S., unaware they might not survive.
“The entire smuggling route from their home country to the border is extremely dangerous. There's a lot of violence that happens. People are murdered during those smuggling routes,” said Tubbs.
Tubbs said the migrants are not immediately released from the smugglers’ stronghold when they get on U.S. soil.
Smugglers move the migrants to stash houses, often without electricity or running water, where Tubbs said they could wait days before the next part of their journey begins.
That next step could be hiding away in a train, a vehicle, or a semi-truck trailer, each mode of transportation still placing the lives of migrants at-risk.
“We've seen that in the past where a lot of times the tractor trailer drivers all of a sudden get nervous because things are going bad, so they'll leave the scene. We've seen them unhitched their tractor leave the trailer with the migrants inside or just flee the scene,” said Tubbs. “They don't even think about the humans that are at risk inside.”
Details are still unclear what happened on Monday when over nearly 50 migrants were found dead in the back of a semi-trailer in southwest Bexar County. Other migrants survived being locked in trailer without air or water. Four migrants died later at area hospitals.
“They don't even think about the humans that are at risk inside,” said Tubbs.
Also profiting from smuggling migrants into the U.S. are the Mexican drug cartels that control who crosses the border, according to Tubbs.
“All of the human smuggling fees that are gained by the cartels, these organizations fuel the cartel violence. That is what they use to continue to produce narcotics, to buy the illegal firearms,” said Tubbs.