Arizona's southern border with Mexico falls into Sinaloa Cartel territory. Cartels control the routes used by migrants to reach the U.S. and they're profiting off the surge. Tony Coulson retired as head of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Tucson and now consults law enforcement agencies about the border. He explained when cartels added human smuggling to their business model.
"Prior to the mid-200s the human trafficking organizations along the border were pretty independent of the drug trafficking organizations. That paradigm changed when Chapo took control of this border area," Coulson said. According to Coulson, the Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán co-opted human trafficking along the border to ensure it did not interfere with drug smuggling missions.
"Instead of having a drug smuggling group along the border and a human trafficking group along the border running into each other and bringing Border Patrol's focus into that area, they used the human trafficking as a diversion to the drug trafficking operation," Coulson said.