The mainstreaming of human trafficking: Meet the Americans smuggling illegal aliens into our country

Analysis by WorldTribune Staff, October 25, 2021

The subhed on the lengthy and detailed San Diego Union-Tribune article read:

Antonio Hurtado does not cut the typical profile of a maritime smuggler

U.S. Customs and Border Protection vessels stop a skiff carrying migrants west of San Diego. / U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Which is a bit odd, because much further down in the fascinating report, one finds that Hurtado would seem to fit the typical profile of an illegal alien smuggler to a T:

The last several years of Hurtado’s life have been marked by drug addiction, short stints in jail, and a transient lifestyle that kept him moving from anchorage to anchorage in a cat-and-mouse game with harbor authorities.

He lived on the water among a larger community of live-aboard boaters who also do what’s known as “the bounce.”


Hurtado has been charged with at least a dozen different crimes in San Diego County, mostly low-level drug charges, dating back to 2013.

The charges include possession of methamphetamine, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and transportation of a controlled substance.

In July 2018, Hurtado was accused of stealing a boat from the Chula Vista Marina and moving it to La Playa Cove off Point Loma, according to court records.

Desperate, repeat-offender criminal types with U.S. citizenship would appear to make ideal candidates for those who would resort to the grisly profession of human smuggling, which treats people as cargo with all that that entails as to respect for individual human life.

While it may be argued that illegal alien smugglers are not as monstrous and rabidly anti-social as pimps, who harshly abuse the human property they control solely in order to make money, the similarities are undeniable. Along with murder, pimping may be the most anti-human expression a citizen of a community can make. With illegal alien smuggling, the perpetrator is showing an equal disdain for the very society he lives in, caring not for its well-being or the safety and welfare of his neighbors and thinking only of the money he is to make off of the bodies of other human beings.

Is it any wonder that reports of widespread rape, outright abandonment in harsh elements and other forms of physical abuse against illegals are common among the coyote “workforce?”

This is why much more focus on the Americans who are helping to bring illegal aliens into this country is clearly required. The employers of illegal aliens bear responsibility. Gravely harming people and destroying their own communities to make money is a deeply hostile offense against the commonweal.

Likewise, those who participate in the active smuggling of illegal aliens qualify for harsher punishment for their brutal actions, which reflect a mindset more menacing than the average run-of-the-mill criminal.

Hurtado’s story is featured in a major investigative article in one of the largest newspapers in California only because his anti-social act ended in deaths that could be directly traced to him. Three illegals were killed as the boat he was piloting, filled with 32 aliens, crashed into a reef and capsized off of Point Loma in May:

Three Mexican migrants suffered blunt-force trauma and drowned: Victor Perez Degollado, 29; Maria Eugenia Chavez Segovia, 41; and Maricela Hernandez Sanchez, 35.

The passengers, who told authorities that they had paid $15,000 to $18,000 to be smuggled into the U.S., identified Hurtado as the pilot of the boat, according to the criminal complaint.

The Union-Tribune’s assertion that Hurtado did not fit the profile for illegal alien smuggling is centered around an emphasis on his maritime background:

While Americans are being increasingly recruited by smuggling networks to sneak migrants into the country — last year U.S. citizens made up 71 percent of human-smuggling offenders sentenced by federal courts, according to data — they are primarily used in land-border crossings.

The maritime routes off San Diego’s coast, on the other hand, have typically been navigated by Mexican fishing boat captains, according to federal investigators.

“It’s about access to the water, access to the boat, access to experience,” said Christopher Davis, an assistant special agent in charge with Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego and head of the Marine Task Force.

“The reality is, it’s a low-risk, high-reward operation,” he added. “The chance of being caught is very minimal.”

But, much like the infamous cocaine smuggling heyday of the 1980s, the battle terrain between policing and those moving in the merchandise is always shifting, and strategies must constantly change. As our border security becomes more lax by the day, having American citizens bring illegals into the U.S. holds distinct advantages.

Furthermore, as WorldTribune documented in August, maritime smuggling into California has grown significantly in recent years. The Union-Tribune acknowledges this dire trend:

Apprehension of migrants and suspected smugglers at sea along the Southern California coastline nearly doubled from fiscal 2019 to 2020. It has continued to climb in fiscal 2021, with 1,460 apprehensions as of July 20 and two additional months left to tally, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Many of the maritime runs are made in pangas, rudimentary wooden fishing boats with an outboard motor that can pull up to beaches. One of the latest attempts, last weekend, ended with Border Patrol agents finding an unconscious girl or woman in the water off Carlsbad State Beach. The panga, and any other migrants involved, were gone by the time authorities arrived.

Organizations are also known to use pleasure craft such as sailboats and cabin cruisers to blend in with recreational traffic, unloading migrants one or two at a time at public and private marinas, Davis said.

In other words, the movement of illegal aliens into America has become mainstreamed… normed. If it was ever a sophisticated operation to begin with, it is far less that today. This opens the path for criminal opportunists on this side of the border to participate on a greater scale.

The Union-Tribune continues:

Little has been publicly released about Hurtado’s alleged involvement in the smuggling effort or how he may have been recruited. His attorney did not respond to requests for comment.

Jeremy Warren, a San Diego attorney who is not connected to the case but has represented several U.S. citizens charged with smuggling over the years, said people with substance abuse issues and in desperate need for money are common targets for recruitment. They often already have some kind of tie to Mexico.

“All these people are fodder for organizations, whether it’s drug smuggling or people smuggling,” Warren said. “They use these people interchangeably and could care less if they are arrested. They use them and lose them, move onto the next.”

One such apparently “interchangeable” figure has just been arrested on our land border in Texas. ABC-13 TV in Houston reports:

Texas State Troopers arrested 24-year-old Gilbert-Joseph Darshan Dennis Mershac on Saturday [Oct. 23] in Brooks County.

Troopers said they stopped for what appeared to be a stranded motorist parked on the northbound shoulder of SH 281. That’s when they found the four passengers were illegal immigrants. Troopers believe Mershac had stopped to pick up the four passengers and was waiting on more to arrive when the authorities showed up.

The 24-year-old was arrested on human smuggling charges.

Uber service for illegal aliens. It all sounds disturbingly routine. But human smuggling still has an ominous air to it, no matter how blasé our federal government becomes about the crisis. As with pimping, it merits special vilification.

The Union-Tribune article concludes:

Those who know Hurtado said it was no secret that he owed people money, had a drug addiction and was afraid his boat would be taken from him. However, he was not known to make trips to Mexico, and several acquaintances said they wouldn’t have suspected Hurtado to get involved in smuggling.

 “He’d been down here for years with no coyote runs,” said fellow bouncer James Bryant. “As far as I know, that was his first go of that. It was very much the move of a desperate person.”

 To treat such acts as just another form of criminal activity will only make this human tragedy and national security threat much, much worse in the coming years.

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