The Corner

On The Border

A reader in the Southwest, responding to my item

about John Lehman and the INS, offers this insight:

I can give you my recent observations on an attempt to pass a piece of

legislation in Arizona called the Coyote Violence Reduction Act (CVRA).

Coyote, of course, is the term used for those persons who smuggle

non-citizens across the U.S. border.

Because being a coyote is now as profitable as being a drug smuggler, and

because there are far fewer laws against alien-smuggling, many drug

smugglers are using their existing infrastructure to smuggle aliens for fun

and profit. They are also using the violent tactics often used in drug

smuggling. They kill people, rip-off other coyote’s loads, abandon their

cargo to rot in the desert to save their own skin, etc. The main gist of the

Coyote Violence Reduction Act was to give state prosecutors power to disrupt

the alien smuggling business through the use of asset forfeiture laws: i.e.,

removing the financial incentive and the transportation vehicles would make

people less inclined to enter into the coyote business. Such laws exist at

the Federal level, but did not exist at the Arizona state level. Federal

enforcement was minimal. State law enforcement that came into contact with a

large van of illegals driven by a coyote with a big ‘ol sack of money really

couldn’t do anything if the feds didn’t have the resources or the interest

to immediately run right over and take control of the situation.

The bill, which would have provided several remedies to all prosecutors in

the state, was met with resistance. Hispanic legislators didn’t want to

completely end alien smuggling. They longed for the old days of the mom &

pop coyote that didn’t charge so much, wasn’t prone to violence and maybe

helped a hard working relative or two get into the country to earn a decent

wage for honest labor. On the other hand, they did not like the new

“corporate” drug smuggling culture coyote that demanded more money, stashed

aliens in safe houses by the hundreds, and was more violent and ruthless.

Law enforcement was also opposed mostly from the standpoint that the border

is a federal issue, the feds have the laws and the personnel, they should

take care of the problem. Local law enforcement felt overwhelmed by

enforcing state law and didn’t want to have to also be burdened with

enforcing what was covered by federal law. Because of these concerns,

ultimately what was passed was a watered down version of the CVRA. It gave

the Attorney General, but not county or municipal prosecutors, discretion to

enforce the law. There was also a mom & pop coyote exemption which

essentially said as long as you don’t smuggle too many aliens or make too

much money, the law didn’t apply.

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