Posted tagged ‘US Southern border’

Report: Cartel Human Smuggling Fees ‘Skyrocketed’ Under Trump

October 7, 2017

Report: Cartel Human Smuggling Fees ‘Skyrocketed’ Under Trump, BreitbartJohn Binder, October 7, 2017

AP File Photo: Eric Gay

“Market forces are at work — even in the illegal market of migrant smuggling,” Huennekens wrote. “Increased costs associated with crossing the border, and increased demand, have caused the price of hiring a smuggler to rise sharply. With current trends, if enforcement efforts on the border continue to increase then smugglers may find the cost of transferring migrants across the border too costly to justify. Likewise, migrants may be less likely to attempt a border crossing if they cannot afford the exorbitant fees associated with hiring a smuggler.”


Smuggling illegal aliens across the U.S.-Mexico border is becoming increasingly expensive. A new report shows how the price of human smuggling has “skyrocketed” under President Trump’s immigration enforcement actions.

As Trump’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will soon review prototypes of border walls to construct along the southern border, the cost of human smuggling is becoming much greater, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Now what you are seeing are people who are more desperate,” Co-Director of Princeton University’s Mexican Migration Project Douglas Massey told the Wall Street Journal. “You are paying more for more services. The cost of getting through the border without inspection has really skyrocketed.”

“As the price goes up, the number of people crossing goes down,” Massey said. “And as the price has gone up, the methods used have become more serious.”

The increase in human smuggling fees is a testament to ramped-up immigration strategies and border controls by DHS under Trump. A key tenant of his campaign was securing the U.S.-Mexico border to stop illegal immigration.

The Princeton researcher’s assertion that human smuggling is becoming more expensive at the southern border is backed up by two previous Breitbart Texas reports.

In one of the reports, Breitbart Texas detailed how a human smuggler openly told USA Today that with a border wall would come increased human smuggling fees, as a wall would make crossing the border much more difficult.

Additionally, DHS data reported by Breitbart Texas showed how human smuggling fees have almost doubled since 2001. In that year, the average cost of a human smuggler on the southern border was roughly $2,600 per illegal alien. Today, that figure has jumped to $3,500.

Center for Immigration Studies researcher Preston Huennekens noted in his analysis that with the growing cost of human smugglers, foreign nationals may be more deterred from entering illegally.

“Market forces are at work — even in the illegal market of migrant smuggling,” Huennekens wrote. “Increased costs associated with crossing the border, and increased demand, have caused the price of hiring a smuggler to rise sharply. With current trends, if enforcement efforts on the border continue to increase then smugglers may find the cost of transferring migrants across the border too costly to justify. Likewise, migrants may be less likely to attempt a border crossing if they cannot afford the exorbitant fees associated with hiring a smuggler.”

Nearly 30% of illegal immigrant children at border have ties to MS-13 or other gangs

June 22, 2017

Nearly 30% of illegal immigrant children at border have ties to MS-13 or other gangs, Washington Times, Stephen Dinan, June 21, 2017

(Please see also, FBI: MS-13 Is Most Violent, Organized Gang in America.– DM)

The Health and Human Services department detains unaccompanied children caught crossing the border illegally and tries to place them with sponsors, but youths often end up with gangs. (Associated Press/File)

[T]he population of children has dropped dramatically under the Trump administration, as stiffer interior enforcement and tough talk from the president have discouraged children — and indeed all migrants — from attempting to cross the border.

That still leaves a large presence in the U.S., and MS-13 — with roots in El Salvador — is a growing threat. . . .

“We know who they are, we know they’re gang members, we know they’re criminals. But if the city, the county, doesn’t allow us to get into that jail then they’re released back into the community,” he said.


Nearly 30 percent of the illegal immigrant children the U.S. is holding in its dormitories have ties to criminal gangs, the government revealed Wednesday, suggesting that the Obama-era surge of Central Americans has fed the country’s growing problem with MS-13 and other gangs.

Federal officials refused even to guess at the true scope of the problem, telling the Senate Judiciary Committee that they can give only small snapshots of what they see. But they said the devastation on communities across the country is clear: killings and chaos, particularly among other immigrants — both legal and illegal.

The Border Patrol identified 160 teens who were known or suspected gang members when they first showed up at the border, but whom the Obama administration said it had to admit under U.S. law.

Meanwhile, a spot check this month of 138 teens being held by the federal Health and Human Services Department identified 39 with gang ties. Four of them were forced into cooperating with the gangs and 35 joined voluntarily, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

“It is well-known that MS-13 actively targets and recruits children as young as 8 years old,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee who called Wednesday’s hearing.

“While their illegal status and Central American heritage are a key factor in MS-13’s targeting, without a doubt the failures of the current system for handling these children is also to blame,” he said. “The current system is fraught with abuse, systematic errors and a lack of effective cooperation.”

He was stunned that no agency could say how many “UAC,” as the government dubs unaccompanied alien children, have been recruited.

The agencies point to one another and to federal laws, saying their hands are tied.

UACs are usually arrested by the Border Patrol, which is required to turn them over to the social workers at HHS within 72 hours, ending the Border Patrol’s involvement. HHS says that under the law it must try to place the children with sponsors. Other than limited circumstances, the department says, its involvement ends soon after it sends the children off.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement doesn’t get involved until a UAC is ordered deported.

That usually leaves the children with no federal supervisions once they are released to sponsors — where they are often prime recruiting targets.

Scott Lloyd, director of the HHS office that handles UAC, said his team is looking to increase monitoring of the minors and is reviewing Obama administration interpretations of policy.

He also said the population of children has dropped dramatically under the Trump administration, as stiffer interior enforcement and tough talk from the president have discouraged children — and indeed all migrants — from attempting to cross the border.

That still leaves a large presence in the U.S., and MS-13 — with roots in El Salvador — is a growing threat, authorities said.

Officials said MS-13 is involved in some drug dealing and does engage in human trafficking, but its real money-making operation is extortion. The gang threatens families — including American citizens — with violence against relatives back in Central America unless those in the U.S. pay them off.

Gang members in the U.S. take directions directly from gang commanders in El Salvador, authorities say.

Kenneth A. Blanco, acting assistant attorney general in the criminal division at the Justice Department, also said immigrants who fail to report crimes to local police are often not afraid of being deported by federal authorities, but rather fear retaliation from the gang members and other criminals who live in their neighborhoods.

He said witnesses’ names become public, making them targets for retribution.

“That really, in my 28 years, has been the fear they have of calling the police. Not so much the other way around,” he said. “They’re really scared of these people.”

That runs counter to the argument made by Democrats and some local police chiefs that illegal immigrants refuse to report crimes because they fear entanglement with federal deportation agents.

Democrats pointed to calculations by some police agencies that crime reporting among Hispanics has dropped dramatically in the months since President Trump took office.

The Democrats say that is one justification for sanctuary city policies — though Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, offered another one Wednesday. He said Chicago, which in 2011 pioneered blanket sanctuary policies, doesn’t want to protect illegal immigrants but is too poor to assist federal agents.

“Come on, Uncle Sam, where’s the money?” Mr. Durbin said.

He said Chicago and Cook County are eager to keep serious criminals and other gang members out of their communities but added that it’s up to the federal government to fund the training he said local authorities need.

“Please help us. Send us some resources,” he said.

Federal officials, though, said they are not looking for locals to do the job, but rather to allow federal officers into their facilities and to share information about releases.

“We’re asking for their cooperation,” said Matthew Albence, executive associate director of enforcement and removal operations at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Mr. Albence singled out the Chicago area as one of the most prominent sanctuaries. “Chicago is a large one. We haven’t been able to get into the Cook County Jail for a long time,” he said.

He also named New York City and San Francisco as top sanctuary cities.

The conversation sprang from questioning by Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, who asked about MS-13 and other gang members who are nabbed by local authorities in sanctuary cities.

“These are evil people. It’s pretty hard to miss them. There are tattoos all over their body,” Mr. Kennedy said. “If they’re arrested and they’re in a local jail, there are some cities in the United States that would prevent you from coming in and talking to them?”

“Correct,” Mr. Albence replied.

“We know who they are, we know they’re gang members, we know they’re criminals. But if the city, the county, doesn’t allow us to get into that jail then they’re released back into the community,” he said.

MS-13 Extorting Sanctuary City Businesses, Say Police

May 26, 2017

MS-13 Extorting Sanctuary City Businesses, Say Police, BreitbartBob Price, May 25, 2017

File Photo: Photos by Michael Williamson/Getty Images

According to Suffolk County New York Police Commissioner Timothy D. Sini, “They are recruiting young people in our communities. They are recruiting recent immigrants because oftentimes, they pray on people’s fears.” The police commissioner told the committee examining the MS-13 gang, “Recent immigrants may not feel comfortable in coming to law enforcement.”

Sini added, “They are recruiting also very young.” He said there was one instance in Suffolk County where MS-13 gang members recruited a ten-year-old.


MS-13 is now using their growing power to threaten and extort immigrants and their businesses in America.

The hyperviolent MS-13 gang is known for beheadings, machete attacks, scalping, and gang rapes. Now they are extorting businesses by threatening immigrants’ families in their native countries if they do not give money.

“The homicides related to MS-13, it’s just because we can, and we will and because of the fear that instills,” Montgomery County Maryland Chief Thomas Manger was also reported by The Washington Times to say.

The information came during a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday. The committee probed “The Rise of MS-13 and Other Transnational Criminal Organizations.”

The gang’s extortion system in their native El Salvador is well-entrenched, a police detective in Chelsea, Massachusetts, Scott Michael Conley, told the committee. Moreover, while their foundation is entrenched on the west coast, they are progressing on the east coast. “Once they establish that leadership base you’ll start to see a more sophisticated gang,” Detective Conley said.

The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), said to those at the hearing:

“During the Committee’s examination of America’s unsecure borders we have learned how transnational criminal organizations and drug cartels exploit American policies and our lack of border security to advance their criminal agenda. Today we continue that important work by discussing how the street gang Mara Salvatrucha, commonly known as MS-13, and other Central American gangs affect communities throughout the United States.”

According to Suffolk County New York Police Commissioner Timothy D. Sini, “They are recruiting young people in our communities. They are recruiting recent immigrants because oftentimes, they pray on people’s fears.” The police commissioner told the committee examining the MS-13 gang, “Recent immigrants may not feel comfortable in coming to law enforcement.”

Sini added, “They are recruiting also very young.” He said there was one instance in Suffolk County where MS-13 gang members recruited a ten-year-old.

Police Chief Manger told the committee, “The gangs surf the internet, building dossiers on potential recruits,” the Times also reported.

Chairman Johnson said that out of this flood of almost 200,000 unaccompanied children (UACs) taken into custody during 2012 to 2016 – 68 percent were males between the ages of 15 – 17.

Breitbart Texas obtained leaked images of UACs in June 2014 which showed not only the conditions of U.S. Border Patrol’s processing centers but also the deluge border patrol agents were facing.

President Obama called the wave of unaccompanied children an “urgent humanitarian situation” and his administration officials pictured these children as fleeing violence and poor economies reported The Washington Post at the time.

Breitbart Texas covered the press conference on April 11 of this year in Houston when Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced the expansion of the Texas Anti-Gang Task Force (TAG) and the creation of a technical operations center. Houston is one of the five cities that the FBI has identified to have a large MS-13 presence. In March, two MS-13 gang members appeared in a Harris County courtroom laughing and waving at news cameras after being charged with the kidnapping and rape of one 14-year-old girl, and the kidnapping, rape, and murder of another young girl in Jersey Village, a city within the Houston metropolitan area. The murdered girl was allegedly killed as part of a satanic ritual.

In late April, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said while visiting Long Island, “The MS-13 motto is kill, rape, and control.” “I have a message to the gangs that are targeting our young people: We are targeting you. We are coming after you.”

Jeff Sessions: MS-13 Could Be Designated a Terrorist Organization

April 19, 2017

Jeff Sessions: MS-13 Could Be Designated a Terrorist Organization, BreitbartIan Mason, April 19, 2017

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Attorney General Jeff Sessions continued his campaign against the vicious MS-13 gang on Fox News’s Tucker Tuesday evening, telling host Tucker Carlson that the group may qualify as a terrorist organization.


“The government of El Salvador has designated MS-13 a terrorist organization. Would it be helpful for our government to do the same?” Carlson asked. “I think so, perhaps. It could qualify for that,” was Sessions’s response.

Designating MS-13 a “foreign terrorist organization” would make providing any material support for the group, here or abroad, a felony, and compel U.S. financial institutions to freeze any assets they reasonably believe belong to the group. The determination is made by the State Department and not AG Sessions’s Justice Department, but Sessions’s willingness to support such a designation speaks to how seriously he takes the threat from the gang.

“This is one of the most violent gangs in the history of our country,” Sessions said of MS-13. He cited the group’s use of machetes and willingness to kill and prostitute children, as they have done across the United States.

The Attorney General laid out a plan to attack MS-13, whose 10,000+ estimated members in the United States operate across 40 states, according to a DOJ fact-sheet on the group. Tough use of immigration laws will be central to Sessions’s strategy for breaking the brutal gang, many of whose members are illegal aliens from Central America. The group originally sprouted up among Salvadorans in Los Angeles in 1980s after thousands of them fled there from political atrocities in their war-torn homeland.

“So many of these people are illegally here,” Sessions said, lashing out at the lax immigration enforcement of prior administrations that, in his view, have contributed to the blossoming of MS-13. “With a good lawful border, many of them of would not be here. They sent some of the most violent people.”

Sessions mocked the perverse use of Obama administration policies on “unaccompanied minor” illegal aliens by MS-13 leaders to get their people exactly where they were needed in America. “They were directed how to enter. If they came and claimed themselves as, you know, a minor, the Obama administration let ’em come into the country, and took them to their destination city, and turned them over to some ‘relative,’” he told Tucker.

Sessions sent a hopeful message about efforts to combat MS-13, calling the destruction of the gang “hard, but not impossible.” “As we have cases and we work them hard, pursue convictions, and we deport people who are here unlawfully, we can devastate this gang,” he said.

Sessions Gives Federal Prosecutors Marching Orders on Border Security

April 13, 2017

Sessions Gives Federal Prosecutors Marching Orders on Border Security, PJ MediaHans A. Von Spakovsky, April 13, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, center, tours the U.S.-Mexico border with border officials, Tuesday, April 11, 2017, in Nogales, Ariz. Sessions toured the U.S.-Mexico border and unveiled what he described as a new get-tough approach to immigration prosecutions under President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

During his trip to the southern border, Attorney General Jeff Sessions made it clear that he will carry out the mandate he was given by President Donald Trump: to vigorously enforce our immigration laws, and go after the human smugglers and traffickers who work for the Mexican cartels that have caused many of our border security problems.

In his April 11 speech to Customs and Border Protection agents in Nogales, Arizona, Sessions bluntly stated his intent to go after the “transnational gangs like MS-13 and international cartels” that are flooding “our country with drugs” and “leave death and violence in their wake.” According to Sessions, it is “criminal aliens and the coyotes and the document-forgers” who want to “overthrow our system of lawful immigration”:

[They] turn cities and suburbs into war zones, that rape and kill innocent citizens and who profit by smuggling poison and other human beings across our borders. … Depravity and violence are their calling cards, including brutal machete attacks and beheadings.

[It is on the border,] on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand against this filth.

These are strong words, indeed — words that certainly had never been spoken by the two attorneys general who served in the prior administration.

Sessions also announced that he was sending a memorandum to all federal prosecutors directing them to make prosecution of certain immigration offenses a higher priority. As Sessions said — in what seems common sense to most Americans — “consistent and vigorous enforcement … will disrupt” these organizations and “deter unlawful conduct.”

Among the enforcement priorities listed by Sessions were the following:

  • Prosecuting those who bring in and harbor aliens, who aid or assist criminal aliens to enter, and who bring in aliens for “immoral purposes” (sex traffickers). Priority will be given to those who bring in three or more illegal aliens or where there are aggravating circumstances, such as serious bodily injury, physical or sexual assault, or death.
  • Bringing felony charges against illegal aliens who have already been deported at least twice or have been deported at least once and have a history of felony crime, gang membership, or other aggravating factors. Also targeted for felony prosecutions: anyone who knowingly enters into a sham marriage to evade immigration laws.
  • Going after illegal aliens who engage in identity theft or immigration-related fraud with felony prosecutions.
  • Prosecuting illegal aliens who assault, resist or otherwise impede immigration officers and agents.

Sessions directed each of the 94 offices of U.S. Attorneys to appoint a “Border Security Coordinator” by April 18. The coordinators will oversee the immigration enforcement program of each office, coordinate with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies, and report the “prosecution statistics related to these offenses.” This latter requirement is obviously an attempt to force transparency on the offices and to provide a measuring stick to gauge how well the attorneys are actually carrying out the attorney general’s directive.

This is particularly important, since resistance from some federal prosecutors is likely.

A Daily Beast article about Sessions’ memorandum quoted an anonymous “veteran federal prosecutor” denouncing the new policy as “totally horrifying” and adding, “We’re all terrified about it, and we don’t know what to do.”

The fact that a lawyer in the career ranks of the Justice Department doesn’twant to enforce federal immigration law is itself “horrifying,” and a sad reflection on the Department’s hiring practices.

How can he or she not “know what to do”?

The choice is crystal clear: Either comply with his or her sworn oath (to uphold the law) and follow this lawful directive or resign.

In addition to taking criminal aliens, smugglers, and those who aid and abet them off the street, increased prosecutions will also have a deterrent effect. For anyone who doubts that, General Sessions cited some stunning numbers:

[From] January to February of this year, illegal crossings dropped by 40 percent, which was unprecedented.

Then in March:

A 72 percent drop compared to the month before the president was inaugurated. That’s the lowest monthly figure for at least 17 years(emphasis added).

As Sessions said, “this is no accident.” It results from:

[A president who] understands the threat, who is not afraid to publicly identify the threat and stand up to it, and who makes clear to law enforcement that the leadership of their country finally has their back.

In his speech, General Sessions also announced plans to hire 50 more immigration judges this year to handle the large backlog of cases. Another 75 judges will be added next year with the help of a new, streamlined hiring process.

This comes on top of the administration’s previously announced plans to hire 5,000 more Border Patrol agents and 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents — not to mention building a secure wall along the Mexican border.

At the end of his speech, General Sessions poignantly referred to Americans who have been killed by illegal aliens with lengthy criminal records. He took an oath “to protect this country from enemies, foreign and domestic” and he intends to enforce “the duly enacted laws of the United States.”

Sessions also honored the victims of prior policy:

[How] can we look the parents and loved ones of Kate Steinle, Grant Ronnebeck and so many others in the eye and say we are doing everything possible to prevent such tragedies from every occurring again?

Focus on Border Wall as Visa Overstays Create Illegal Immigrant Crisis

March 21, 2017

Focus on Border Wall as Visa Overstays Create Illegal Immigrant Crisis, Judicial Watch, March 21, 2017

While the Trump administration focuses on securing the southern border, most illegal immigrants enter the United States legally and stay after their visa expires, a new study reveals. That’s because, incredibly, the U.S. doesn’t have an adequate system to assure the foreigners leave when they’re supposed to. This has been a serious problem for years and in fact some of the 9/11 hijackers overstayed their visa to plan the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil. More than a decade and a half later little has changed. Securing the famously porous southern border is essential to national security but so is a reliable system that cracks down on visa overstays.

How bad is the problem? More than half of the undocumented people living in the U.S. entered the country with visas that expired, according to a report issued this month by a New York-based think tank dedicated to studying international migration. The study analyzes Department of Homeland Security (DHS) statistics from 2014 and finds that two-thirds of foreigners who arrived did not cross the border illegally, but rather were admitted on non-immigrant temporary visas and overstayed their period of admission or otherwise violated the terms of their visas. “Overstays accounted for about two-thirds (66 percent) of those who arrived (i.e., joined the undocumented population) in 2014,” the report states.

Visa overstays exceeded illegal border crossings, Entries Without Inspection (EWI), every year since 2007, the report says, and 600,000 more overstays than EWIs have arrived since 2007. Most illegal immigrants in the U.S. come from Mexico, the DHS figures used to compile the report show, about one-third of them visa overstays. This translates into 4.5 million visa overstays from Mexico in the year that was studied. California has the largest number of overstays (890,000), followed by New York (520,000), Texas (475,000), and Florida (435,000). Not surprisingly, California and Texas have the biggest chunk of illegal border crossers from Mexico, with 1.7 million and 1.3 million respectively. Other states, such as Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, also have large numbers of visa overstays, the report states.

The study was actually published to make a case against building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, but in the process highlights the visa overstay crisis which compromises national security just as much as the porous border. Judicial Watch has reported on both for years and obtained public records that help illustrate the severity of the matter. The bottom line is that Islamic terrorists are using both avenues to enter the U.S. As part of an ongoing investigation on the Mexican border, Judicial Watch has published a series of articles documenting how Middle Eastern terrorists have joined forces with Mexican drug cartels to infiltrate the U.S. and train in southern border towns near American cities. Sources include local, state and federal law enforcement officials as well as military figures on both sides of the border.

The threat created by visa overstays has also been well documented. Just last year Judicial Watch obtained DHS figures showing that more than half a million foreigners with expired visas—like four of the 9/11 jihadists—remained in the country, thousands of them from terrorist nations like Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Syria. More than 45,000 Mexicans overstayed their visa, according to the DHS records, and thousands more from El Salvador, Ecuador, Venezuela and China. The visas are granted for “business or pleasure” and the foreigners come via sea or air port of entry. For nearly a decade a number of federal audits have offered the alarming figures associated with visa overstays, including one released back in 2011 that estimates half of the nation’s illegal immigrants entered legally with visas.

A few years after the 2001 terrorist attacks Congress launched a system that was supposed to track the entry and exit of foreign nationals by using electronically scanned fingerprints and photographs. But five years and $1 billion later, the system, U.S. Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology (US VISIT), still had serious flaws. A few years later the investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), published a report confirming that nearly half of the nation’s illegal aliens entered the U.S. legally and overstayed their visas undetected. In the years that followed the government did little to improve what has developed into a dire national security disaster. In 2011 yet another federal audit confirmed that the U.S. had lost track of millions who overstayed their visas and two years later the crisis intensified when DHS lost track of 266 dangerous foreigners with expired visas. The government determined that they “could pose a national security or public safety concerns,” according to the director of Homeland Security and Justice at the GAO.

New Documentary ‘Clandestino’ Sheds Light on Sinaloa Cartel

March 11, 2017

New Documentary ‘Clandestino’ Sheds Light on Sinaloa Cartel, Insight Crime, Patrick Corcoran, March 8, 2017

(Trump is clearly a vile, Mexican-hating beast to try to close our borders and drive these wonderful Sinaloa Cartel people out of business or at least keep their stuff out.  The other Mexican cartels are probably just bringing in bibles. Right? Unfortunately, the long video is in Spanish. — DM)

Filmmaker Beriain (left) and one of his subjects

A new documentary provides a detailed look at the inner workings of Mexico‘s Sinaloa Cartel, from mules loaded down with sacks of marijuana to the methamphetamine cooks working on the outskirts of Culiacán.

Spanish journalist David Beriain spent weeks in northwest Mexico, documenting his interactions for the Discovery en Español show “Clandestino.” The result is three 45-minute episodes, which are available on Youtube, that take him from the capital of Sinaloa to just north of the US border, always in the company of his cameraman and one or more members of what has long been considered Mexico‘s most powerful criminal organization. (The full series is embedded below)

Beriain emphasizes at the outset of his documentary that some unnamed authority within the organization has blessed his project. Armed with that endorsement, he accompanies a seemingly endless stream of cartel members as they go about their jobs, and engages each of them in an interview lasting five or eight minutes. The subjests aren’t intimate friends with Jesus “El Mayo” Zambada or Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, though their jobs are demonstrably impacted by the recent attacks on the group’s leadership.

Beriain’s method as an interviewer is simple and effective: He asks each of the employees about what exactly they do, and then he asks them why they do it. Many of Beriain’s queries are quite basic: “What is that stick for?” he asks the keeper of a safe house at one point. He focuses a great deal on the sequences of their chores, and also on the consequences of the mistakes. This provides viewers with an extremely granular understanding of precisely what it entails to serve as the Sinaloa Cartel‘s armament technician, or as the cultivator of a heroin field, or as a torturer.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Narco Culture

“Clandestino” also shines when it tackles the moral compromises of working in the drug trade. Beriain does not shy away from asking people if they are personally responsible for harming others. He asks virtually all his interviewees how they feel about the uglier side of their trade, from beating people and risking their lives to profiting off of addiction and enabling murder.

The answers are often illustrative. Some recoil from the choices they’ve made, while others embrace their ability to inflict pain. At least two describe the Sinaloa Cartel in moralistic terms, as the one gang that refuses harm the civilian population. One of the most affecting portions of the film was a dirty cop, expressing some mixture of resignation and shame, explaining how he came to work for the group he’s theoretically paid to combat.

Virtually all of the members of the cartel point to money as their chief motivator. This line of questioning tends to lead to further disclosures about their pay scale. A woman charges $4,000 to fly with a half kilogram of heroin, contained in a tube hidden in her vagina, to Tijuana from points further south in Mexico. The leader of a team that drives a truck laden with drugs through the Tijuana border crossing receives $6,000. For the mule who carries loads of marijuana through the desert on foot, a trip that could last up to eight days, $2,000 awaits.

The data about salaries is just one of a series of unusually penetrating insights about the economics of the Sinaloa Cartel‘s operations revealed in “Clandestino.” Beriain observes early in the program that the gang’s privileged position derives from its control of the western half of the US border, similar to the way a legitimate company seeks to exploit its own unique assets, from productive oil fields to irreplaceable computer processors. Controlling access to the world’s largest drug market has made the Sinaloa Cartel the single most important gatekeeper in the world of organized crime.

Viewers also learn that the cartel operates as a sort of regulator for all manner of illegal activities. It fixes the retail and wholesale price for drugs within its territory, and it prohibits certain activities like extortion, kidnapping, and rape, we are told.

SEE ALSO: Sinaloa Cartel News and Profile

The Sinaloa Cartel is striking in its employees’ degree of specialization. Each member has one basic task: physically moving drugs across a single route, maintaining weapons, producing a single drug, guarding a safe house, picking up drugs in the United States, patrolling Culiacán in search of rival bands, or executing rivals. The members profess little awareness of other elements of the gangs’ operations, but all know their own work quite well.

The organization is in some senses like an assembly line stretching across the whole of northwestern Mexico. This makes it both extremely productive and extremely resilient. The individuals who appear in “Clandestino” are capable of moving hundreds of pounds a day of heroin, marijuana, and cocaine across the US border, something approaching industrial scale. They operate essentially in unison, forming one single organism.

But the gang is largely cellular in its operation, and attacking one part of the organism — for example, the gunmen in Culiacán — has little impact on another, like the specialists who prepare hidden compartments for cars.

Despite its many positive qualities, it is fair to lodge a few criticisms of “Clandestino.” The pulse-pounding music and the constant reminders of danger would not feel out of place in a low-budget thriller movie. And as effective as it is, Beriain’s formula in dealing with this succession of gangsters grows slightly redundant over the course of the two hours of filming. Moreover, while the breadth of the Sinaloa Cartel‘s portrayal is perhaps unprecedented, as characters, none of the people who appear before Beriain’s camera quite come alive. There is no one, for instance, who will etch themselves into viewers’ memories the way José Manuel Mireles did in “Cartel Land.”

Nevertheless, “Clandestino” is incisive, original, informative, and entertaining. It is among the most thorough cinematic treatments that one of the world’s most important criminal groups has ever received.

New Documentary ‘Clandestino’ Sheds Light on Sinaloa Cartel, Insight Crime, Patrick Corcoran, March 8, 2017