Reflection paper 3 Alma bjorklund

My second time volunteering at the New American Campaign was quite different from the first. Instead of interacting with and helping people that were applying for their citizenship, I helped file cases in the Children’s Department. While perhaps not a fun task, it felt good to be of help to people working in the office – a way of saying thank you for all that they had taught me the last time I was there. I did not, however, expect that filing cases would be the experience that touched me the most as a volunteer at the New American Campaign. When you file cases, you must sometimes open them to determine which type of case they are in order to file them correctly; I opened a file that belonged to a boy – I believe he was nine – and the words jumped out at me: “arrived alone, crossed the border with the help of a coyote.” I thought of my own little brother, now nineteen, and of how terrified he would have been in that situation; I thought of what the guest speaker we had in class a while back had said about the danger of the smuggling route and about how the coyotes oftentimes could not be trusted; I thought of how desperate parents or relatives must be to send a child alone on such a dangerous journey, and of how -- because of strict immigration laws -- they probably perceived it to be the best option for a chance at a better life.

The experience at the New American Campaign made me reflect on, in a broader sense, what the people that cross the borders with coyotes actually go through. Not just the risk and cost that they accept for a chance at a better life in the United States, but also the notion they the put their lives in the hands of an individual or group of smugglers that could turn on them at any given moment.

"Illegal immigrants face kidnapping, murder, and rape at the hands of violent drug cartels and ever more ruthless human smugglers. Hundreds of people die every year trying to cross the border into the U.S." ~The Heritage Foundation

There is no question that the human smuggling industry and illegal immigration is dangerous for the migrants, and further undesirable for the receiving country that loses its ability to trace the movement of people across its borders; so why does it happen, and what can be done to stop it?

Actually, Trump, this has been attempted -- and failed -- in the past.

The U.S. fencing in El Paso and near San Diego, and similarly Hungary's border fence in 2015, did not prevent crossings entirely. Instead, the fencing " shifted flows to other locations that were more remote or less fortified. In the U.S. case, as high-traffic urban routes were closed, migrants and smugglers began to cross in the remote and dangerous deserts of western Arizona."

Fencing in El Paso, Mexico

According to Segmented Labor Market Theory, “migration is driven by a demand for immigrant labour that is structurally embedded in modern capitalist economies.” Stricter immigration policies in combination with a strong demand for cheap labor that is easy to exploit and control “creates black markets for migrant labour and opportunities for smugglers and recruitment agents.” Thus, one way to counter smuggling operations is to increase labor market regulations while attempting to decrease the incentives for employing irregular temporary workers. Yet, such efforts may affect many industries negatively in that they push up production costs, and thereby also increase the retail price for consumers (Castle 53).

The agricultural sector is continuously is given as an example of an industry with high numbers of illegal workers

I find the Segmented Labor Theory very interesting both as it relates to human smuggling practices and illegal immigration, and I know it to be true for a least one case: the equestrian industry. Without absolute certainty, I believe it to be a fair estimate that at least 60 percent of the grooms (the people that take care of the horses) at the horse shows around America are illegal immigrants who arrived with the help of a coyote. Yet, at least in regards to this specific example, I disagree with Segmented Labor Market Theory on the notion that what drives demand is a need for cheap labor that is easy to exploit. Most grooms are paid well – up to $1200 a week – for manual labor. Instead, I believe that the reason why there is a demand for illegal workers, at least within the equestrian industry, is the fact that few Americans want to do the job; not because it is an exploitative occupation, but because it is manual labor that require hard and sometimes unpleasant work.

As someone very involved in the equestrian industry, I have been able to interact with some of the grooms that arrived in the U.S. with the help of a coyote; in their minds, there is no point in even trying to enter legally because of the strict immigration policies that the U.S. impose. Using a coyote, therefore, is perceived to be their only option. With this in mind, I believe that the only way to put a halt to human smuggling practices, while I recognize the complexity of such a policy, is to open the door to legal immigration through, for example, variations of guest worker visas. If some sort of companion visa in addition could be granted to the children of the workers, the number of children that cross the border unaccompanied may further see a decrease.


Castles, Stephen; de Haas, Hein and Mark J. Miller. The Age of Migration: International Population Movements in the Modern World. Fifth ed. 2014. Print.

Jones, Reese. "Borders and Walls: Do Barriers Deter Unauthorized Migration?" Migration Policy Institute. 5 Oct. 2016.

Markon, Jerry, and Joshua Partlow. "Unaccompanied children crossing southern border in greater numbers again, raising fears of new migrant crisis." The Washington Post. WP Company, 16 Dec. 2015. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.

Walser, Ray. "The Human Tragedy of Illegal Immigration: Greater Efforts Needed to Combat Smuggling and Violence." The Heritage Foundation. N.p., 22 June 2011. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.