Mexican officials promised Thursday to crack down on human smugglers, or coyotes — a dramatic change in policy that Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said could help slow the tide of illegal immigration.
A top Mexican diplomat outlined his country’s new aggressive attitude toward coyotes during a luncheon speech delivered to prosecutors from Mexico and the United States. The prosecutors are attending a three-day conference on border issues at the Wildhorse Pass Resort in the Gila River Indian Community.
Mexico is committed to a new venture with the U.S. announced in August to bring human smugglers to justice in both countries, said Juan Bosco Marti Ascencio from Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Under the program, Mexican citizens accused of being coyotes on either side of the border will face charges in Mexican courts, according to an official summary. That means U.S. prosecutors no longer have to struggle with the fate of immigrants caught after being guided across the border by smugglers.
U.S. officials can deport the witnesses and Mexican officials will get statements for trial.
Marti, speaking in Spanish, said many coyotes are part of organized crime rings that rip off people trying to enter the U.S. illegally, or leave them to die in the desert. Coyotes also frequently smuggle illegal drugs and potentially could have ties to terrorists, Marti said.
"We need to protect the migrant as well as deal with this crime," according to a translation of Marti’s speech.
Goddard said afterward that Marti’s public comments reinforced an earlier private conservation they had about Mexico’s plans to go after smugglers.
"I’m very encouraged about what I am hearing," Goddard said. "
Clearly, the view had been (coyotes) were sort of benevolent facilitators instead of something to worry about. They now see these coyotes as serious organized criminals."