Why Migrants Are Often Dissatisfied With Their Coyotes

In a recent study, the behavior most strongly linked to a negative recommendation was abandonment.
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To make the risky cross-border journey to enter the United States illegally, migrants often rely on a human smuggler to help them navigate the many hazards. With no Yelp for "coyotes," as the smugglers are called, the decision of whom to trust is typically based on word-of-mouth.

Researchers Jeremy Slack of the University of Texas–El Paso and Daniel Martínez of the University of Arizona analyzed interviews with 655 migrants who were ultimately apprehended and returned to Mexico. Seventy-five percent of those who used a coyote reported they were satisfied, but only 45 percent said they would recommend him to friends or family.

Why the gap? While "expectations of comfort and safety are decidedly low for oneself," the researchers write in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, migrants consider such factors as "competence, temperament, and courtesy" when thinking of others. Another finding illustrates the risks: The behavior most strongly linked to a negative recommendation was abandonment.

A version of this story originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Pacific Standard.

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