Western Union: The Fastest Way to Pay a Coyote

This article from the Washington Post chronicles the state of Arizona’s attempt to shut down immigrant smuggling organizations that operate in Arizona. The controversial attempt was initiated on Sept. 21, 2006. A warrant was issued to block all Western Union money transfers of $500 and above from 26 states with a significant population of illegal immigrants to a group of Western Union outlets in the northern Mexican state of Sonora. The plan also included issuing warrants to block money transfers through Western Union to nearby states such as Nevada.

For anyone who has worked with immigration populations, it is well known that Western Union is a preferred way to transfer money to family members in Mexico. It appears it is also a preferred way to get money to immigrants who are planning to cross the border illegally, so they can pay their smugglers, commonly referred to as “coyotes.”

Western Union, unsurprisingly, sued to stop this process, arguing that it was not a crime to transfer money, and the company should not be penalized for what people do with the money once it is transferred.

Although the program has been an effective means to slow human trafficking, it is a stop-gap measure. A more effective means to eliminate this problem is to issue temporary work visas via the Federal Government. At the rates that immigrants are paying coyotes today (from $2500-5000), the government could collect this income, and cut coyotes out of the process.

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