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In Maxus’s view, a border wall might make the journey harder, but it won’t eliminate the demand for smuggling services. The economic and societal factors driving migration will persist, and individuals like Maxus will adapt to the changing landscape, ensuring their profitability in the smuggling trade.

Along the US-Mexico border, there exists a shadowy figure known by his trade name Maxus. He practices a specialized form of human smuggling common in urban areas that straddle the border.

Maxus operates in Mexicali, a bustling Mexican city with a population exceeding 900,000, situated just across the fence from the modest town of Calexico, California. Unlike the conventional route through remote desert areas, Maxus employs a strategy that brings migrants over the border fence right in the heart of the town, seemingly under the vigilant eyes of Border Patrol agents.

His method involves creating diversions or waiting for Border Patrol agents to leave certain areas unguarded. Migrants are then guided over the fence using ropes, ladders, or through carefully crafted holes. Once on the US side, the migrants attempt to blend in with the predominantly Latino local population in Calexico.

Maxus, a seasoned pollero (smuggler), shares his recent success in getting four people across in a single night without detection by the Border Patrol. Describing the process, he explains how they strategically moved migrants over the wall in the town center, making use of distractions and the cover of darkness.

His mastery of the strategy is so profound that he can guide someone through the process in real-time using Google Maps. Maxus vividly recounts his movements, pinpointing locations, and detailing the maneuvers to avoid detection by Border Patrol agents.

Maxus’s journey into the world of smuggling dates back to 1994 when he crossed the border illegally himself. After growing up in poverty in Veracruz, Mexico, he found himself working in San Diego for a brief period before being deported. His financial struggles led him to take up a job as a decoy, washing windshields on vehicles waiting to cross into Calexico.

The smuggling landscape has evolved significantly since Maxus’s early days. The surge in border security measures, including increased personnel, cameras, motion sensors, and formidable fences, has transformed the nature of the trade. The advent of the 2006 Secure Fence Act added hundreds of miles of new fencing, making it more challenging for smugglers to navigate.

Maxus reflects on the changes in the trade, emphasizing the shift from individual efforts to a team-based approach. Each member of the smuggling team has a specific role, ranging from decoys to drivers transporting migrants to their main destination, Los Angeles.

As an empathetic figure who once experienced migration himself, Maxus sympathizes with the people he assists, but his primary motivation is financial gain. Over the years, he has amassed wealth, owning houses and cars, although some were lost in a divorce.

The cost of smuggling has risen dramatically, reflecting the heightened risks and challenges posed by increased border security. Maxus details the intricate payment structure within the smuggling network, highlighting the substantial amounts paid to various roles involved, from drivers to decoys and even Mexican police officers.

Despite the potential obstacles posed by a border wall, Maxus remains confident that migrants will persist in seeking ways to enter the US. While a wall may deter some smuggling organizations, those that endure are likely to become more sophisticated in their methods. A decrease in competition could lead to higher prices for their services, ultimately increasing profits.

In Maxus’s view, a border wall might make the journey harder, but it won’t eliminate the demand for smuggling services. The economic and societal factors driving migration will persist, and individuals like Maxus will adapt to the changing landscape, ensuring their profitability in the smuggling trade.

As the conversation with Maxus concludes, he hints at the fluctuating demand for his services, acknowledging the ebb and flow of clients. Undeterred by challenges, he plans to continue his work, driven by the constant demand for border crossing assistance.

The next morning, a Mexican police officer discovers a homemade metal ladder left on the border fence in Chapultepec Park, a tangible reminder of the covert activities that persist along the US-Mexico border.

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