PHOENIX - A recent photograph showed 513 immigrants, stuffed into two semi trucks en route from Guatemala to the United States.
Busted by an X-ray machine which showed people packed like sardines. It’s a disturbing example of brutality on the part of the coyotes and desperation on the part of the people in the trucks.
Police in southern Mexico just intercepted that human smuggling operation, and freed the cramped and dehydrated migrants.
Desperate to cross the US border, each person reportedly paid $7,000 for chance to squeeze into the back of one of a truck. There were air holes cut into the roof for the 513 immigrants to try and breath. They had to hold onto yellow ropes to stay upright and hopefully survive the long journey from Central America-- up through Mexico.
Talking to a captain with the Department of Public Safety wing of the IIMPACT taskforce said they were experiencing a slowdown in illegal immigration this year, but that all changed two weeks ago.
Within the last ten days they have busted four drop houses, pulled over four load vehicles, made close to 100 arrests and put 12 smugglers behind bars.
So, within the last two weeks, they have made more arrests than they did all year.
"We're seeing a lot of Central Americans, not just Guatemalans, but we are seeing a lot of Central Americans being encountered," said Cpt. Fred Zumbo.
Cpt. Zumbo isn’t ready to call it a definite trend, but has seen an increase in the number of Central Americans illegally crossing through Arizona.
"It just seems like there is a lot, but it could be just seasonal. It could be just one of those spikes that happen," said Cpt. Zumbo.
The violence in Guatemala could be the reason for this perceived increase in illegal immigrants from Central America.
Guatemala's President is declaring a "state of siege" in the province where just last weekend more than two dozen people were massacred. The victims were migrant workers. Their killers decapitated several bodies. Wednesday there was a deadly shootout with police and the drug cartel blamed for the violence.
“Certainly, it confirms some of the things we are seeing on this side of the border," said Cpt. Zumbo.
If you multiply the $7,000 transport fee with the number of immigrants, you get close to $3.6 million. That’s money Cpt. Zumbo said the coyotes would need to bribe drug cartels as they made their way through Mexico and into the US.
Cpt. Zumbo said the $7,000 price tag for transport is pretty typical for non-Mexican illegal immigrants.
"And, a lot of times what will happen, the money will come from relatives who are here, sponsors who are here in this country," he said. "They have worked real hard, they have saved their money. And, they pay these smugglers to bring their loved ones over to the United States."
Most of these immigrants were from Central America, however many were from India, Japan and China.