Traffickers have established a low-cost bus route through Mexico to deliver thousands of economic migrants from Central America to U.S. blue-collar jobs, according to the Washington Post.
The business model is being called the “conveyor belt” system, and large groups of customers are charged from $2,500 to $7,000 per adult and child, depending on amenities, says the Washington Post:
Paying up to $7,000 per adult with child, families are transported to staging areas at ranches and hotels in southern Mexico, where they are organized into bus groups and rushed north along Mexican highways, “stopping only for food, fuel and bathroom breaks,” according to the U.S. law enforcement documents.
Within 72 hours of leaving the staging areas, the buses arrive at predetermined drop-off points within walking distance of the U.S. border. Migrant families are clustered into groups that have at times exceeded 300 adults and children, and they walk directly across the border, in some cases stepping over barriers in long, orderly lines. They then surrender to U.S. Border Patrol agents and initiate asylum claims.
The bus networks boost the cartels’ profits by maximizing production and minimizing overhead costs, such as the costs of stash houses and gunmen, the Washington Post notes:
By using the direct-bus method, smugglers can eliminate the need for stash houses along the border where they would normally keep migrants under the watch of armed guards before sneaking them across the border. The express routes “minimize overhead and maximize capacity,” according to the U.S. documents, allowing smugglers to reduce “operational costs to a minimum.”