Transnational criminal organizations are raking in $13 billion annually.

As the United States continues to see record numbers of aliens illegally entering the country, all objective observers have reached a consensus: No alien enters the U.S. between the ports of entry via the southwestern border without paying someone in Mexico.

The effective takeover of large swaths of Mexico, including the south side of the U.S.-Mexico border, by transnational criminal organizations, or TCOs — otherwise known as cartels — has resulted in a related consensus: A sizable portion of those payments from migrants go directly or indirectly into the coffers of the TCOs. This material support of TCOs by aliens seeking illegal entry into the U.S. is fueling other criminal activity by the TCOs, including illicit drug trafficking and human trafficking.

As is the case when human smuggling is discussed, it’s important to note the distinction between “smuggled” aliens and “trafficked” aliens. Immigration and Customs Enforcement asserts that “the two crimes are very different, and it is critical to understand the difference between the two.”

According to ICE, human trafficking is characterized by the “forced exploitation” of people while human smuggling describes the process of “an individual who voluntarily seeks to gain illegal entry into a foreign country” and seeks out “the provision of a service” from another to do so.

The clear distinction between smuggled and trafficked aliens is found in the voluntary payment by smuggled aliens who initiate a conspiracy with smugglers for the provision of the service of bringing the aliens into the U.S. between the ports of entry. Those smugglers — or “coyotes,” as they are known in the trade — who are not directly employed by the TCOs still must pay a tax to the TCO, which controls the particular area through which migrants are smuggled.

The financial support provided by smuggled aliens helps keep the TCOs in business. Last year, The New York Times estimated the annual market revenue from bringing aliens illegally into the U.S. at $13 billion. This revenue stream finances TCO operations.

Recently, a House Homeland Security subcommittee hearing included several remarks from minority members regarding the trafficking of small arms to Mexico from the United States. ICE has reported: “A portion of the smuggling fees paid to the transnational criminal organizations helps fuel their other criminal enterprises.”

Given that encounters at the U.S. southwestern border have risen from 450,000 in fiscal 2020 to 2.3 million in fiscal 2022 — a fivefold increase — TCOs are generally much more profitable under the Biden administration’s abysmal stewardship of the border. Migrants have enriched the capability of TCOs to acquire the added means to conduct their ever-widening violent operations.

Similarly, it’s also certain that the amount of illicit drugs that has successfully eluded the U.S. Border Patrol and entered the U.S. via the southwestern border would not have occurred without the practical, distracting benefit of aliens — under direct control of TCOs — illegally entering the U.S.

In recent testimony before Congress, retired Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott, now the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s senior distinguished fellow for border security, said: “These illegal entries are controlled by transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) to overwhelm law enforcement and create controllable gaps in border security. These gaps are then exploited to easily smuggle contraband … into the U.S. at will.”

Migrants are told in no uncertain terms that the decision as to where and when they cross the southwestern border is not theirs to make, and any such independence in the matter exercised on their part will be met with swift recrimination.

Finally, it’s well known that migrants who are unable to initially provide payment in full for transiting TCO-controlled territory and are granted passage by the TCOs to cross the southwestern border are ultimately forced to meet those illicit obligations. Otherwise, the migrants’ family members who are left behind may experience violence perpetrated by unpaid TCOs.

The plight of migrants who have struggled to reach the southern border of the U.S. has long been a focus of debate on immigration policy. But TCO acquisition of control of large swaths of Mexico, including the southern side of the U.S.-Mexico border, has changed that debate.

No longer are aliens illegally entering the U.S. independently. They are paying TCOs for the right to transit Mexico and are aiding them in the trafficking of illicit drugs that kill Americans.

Without the massive demand of millions of migrants wishing to illegally enter the U.S. and the material support they provide TCOs, the human tragedy resulting from that support would be a mere shadow of what it is today.