From victims of trafficking to felons: Migrant smugglers recruited by Mexican cartels

Keywords: migrant smugglers, drug cartels, Mexico, United States.


The objective of this paper is to examine what are the methods used by Mexican drug cartels to recruit migrant smugglers and which are the activities carried by former migrant smugglers in these organizations. A qualitative methodology was used, consistent in the realization, between 2011 and 2015, of interviews with 107 migrant smugglers (105 men and 2 women). This paper concludes that after 2013, there has been an increase of recruitment of migrant smugglers by drug cartels without coercion, and that the activities carried out by them are increasingly violent.
Simón Pedro Izcara Palacios
Born in Burgos (Spain), he holds a PhD in Sociology from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and is a professor of Sociology at the Multidisciplinary Academic Unit of Sciences, Education and Humanities en la Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas, Mexico, and a member of the National System of Researchers (SNI). His lines of research include agrarian journalism, irregular migration, migrant smuggling, and human trafficking. Recent publications: (2017) “Los polleros que engañan a los migrantes: norma o excepción”, Convergencia, 24(74), 13-38; (2017) “La precarización extrema en el mercado de trabajo agrario en Estados Unidos”. Colombia International, (89), 109-132; and (2018) “Centroamericanas menores de edad prostituidas en California”, Nóesis. Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities, 27(53), 77-97.