Stabile graduate Ravi Kumar ’12 publishes master’s project with GlobalPost
August 02, 2012 00:00
South Asians are coming to the U.S. illegally, using the human smuggling pipeline that snakes through Central America. In a story published by GlobalPost, Stabile graduate Ravi Kumar ’12 documented how Nepalis are finding their way to cities like New York by using long-established smuggling networks in Mexico and elsewhere. He discovered how Guatemala, with its lax entry requirements, corrupt immigration officials and porous borders, has become the preferred port of entry for South Asian migrants. Nepalis do not need tourist visas to go to Guatemala, and so they fly there from Kathmandu and then go overland to Mexico and then the United States.
The rising numbers of South Asians using this route is reflected in arrest numbers at the
U.S.-Mexico border. In 2004, border patrol agents detained 2,777 Indians crossing from Mexico. The number more than doubled to nearly 6,000 in 2011. Fewer Nepalis come to the U.S., but their arrest numbers are also rising. In 2007, 65 Nepalis were detained for entering the U.S. illegally; in 2011, there were 104 arrests.
Kumar began researching this story last fall, while he was enrolled in the Stabile program for investigative reporting at Columbia Journalism School. He found that South Asian migrants pay human smugglers tens of thousands of dollars each, 10 times more than what Central Americans pay. Travel documents alone could cost as much as $10,000 to $20,000. A migrant could spend as much as $50,000 to get to the U.S. illegally, according to a Texas immigration lawyer who has Indian clients.
The migrants are fetched at the Guatemalan airport by smuggling syndicates, Kumar found. They are hidden in hotels or stash houses. Then they are driven to Mexico, often hidden in the trunks of vehicles. They walk the last stretch of the journey—from border villages in Mexico to the Arizona desert.