Human Smuggling Isn’t About Capitalism; It’s About Greed
Religion & Liberty Online

Human Smuggling Isn’t About Capitalism; It’s About Greed

The New York Times has a poignant piece about Cecilia, a young Guatemalan girl who sought a better life in the U.S. and was unfortunately caught up in the machinations of human smuggling. The smugglers were bold, advertising on the radio with promises of a better life. They required a $7,000 loan, with her family’s home as collateral. Her trip ended in a gas station parking lot in Florida, with Cecilia being robbed of another $1,000. Then there is this:

Behind the surge of young migrants showing up for a shot at the American dream is a system of cruel and unregulated capitalism with a proven ability to adapt. The human export industry in the region is now worth billions of dollars, experts say, and it has become more ruthless and sophisticated than ever, employing a growing array of opportunists who trap, rape and rob from the point of departure to the end of the road. [emphasis added]

According to Merriam-Webster, “capitalism” is defined as

an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.

While it may be politically-correct to spew out “cruel” and “unregulated” whenever one speaks of “capitalism,” those ideas cannot be equated. Capitalism is never unregulated; it is simply regulated by a different set of rules than ones the state may impose. Capitalism is neither cruel nor kind; it’s a tool or a blueprint. A blueprint is neither cruel nor kind. Even if it is a blueprint for a gas chamber, the blueprint itself is morally neutral.

The current situation of smuggling young people from Mexico and Central America, extorting enormous amounts of money from them and their families, and exposing the young people to physical, sexual and psychological danger is cruel. There are no excuses. It is greed that drives this enterprise; not a sound desire to build a business. Make as much money as you can, don’t get caught and get out. That’s a far cry from an entrepreneur who shows up at a bank with her small business plan, hoping that in 5 years she’ll have doubled her floral shop in size and added 2 more full-time employees.

The New York Times’ Damien Cave and Frances Robles write that the corrupt system of making money off of human beings involves not just coyotes, but unscrupulous property owners and bankers:

The banking system encourages the risky behavior. Jorge Gúzman, the manager at one of two Banrural banks in Nebaj, said loans are more likely to be approved if the family applying has a relative up north sending back money. The loans are supposed to be for construction or farming improvements, but Mr. Gúzman said “most people are not honest about why they are borrowing.”

He acknowledged that a lot of the money had been used to pay for additional journeys north. During the recession a few years ago, that led to more losses for the bank. But in the past year or two, he said, the bank’s portfolio had stabilized, allowing for more lending.

And with more money in play, coyotes have come calling. Their ranks have multiplied, many here say, because it’s the best job around. One trip often pays more than a teacher’s annual salary.

As for Cecilia, she likely would have ended up dead or trafficked sexually, except for the fact that her father had given her the name and phone number of a human rights activist he had known years ago. When Cecilia was frantic that she would die, she called the woman, who came to her rescue. She was left with nothing but a tube of lipstick, but her father says he was thankful that she had arrived safely in the U.S.

The honest, good, creative work of business people and entrepreneurs should not be compared to the violent, deceitful and unlawful work of smugglers and unscrupulous rabble. Just because money is made does make the system “capitalistic.” By their fruit you shall know them.

Read “A Smuggled Girl’s Odyssey of False Promises and Fear” at The New York Times.


Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.