According to new reports based upon court documents and reports by federal drug agents, over the past two years, undocumented immigrants were funneled to Springfield, MO and used as unwilling (and perhaps unknowing) participants in the distribution of Mexican methamphetamine.
For those desperate to get out of terrible socioeconomic conditions, sneaking into the United States may appear an appealing option. A major criminal organization reportedly took advantage of immigrants by having them pay a fee-which many times is an immigrant’s entire life’s savings- and smuggled them to the U.S. from Mexico, Honduras and elsewhere. They were brought to the Ozarks believing they would get good jobs and make enough money to improve the lives of their families back home. Instead when they arrived, they received poor treatment, low wages, and terrible living conditions and owned a heavy debt to the organization that helped them cross the border illegally. Drug agents say that an Ozark-based construction company and a horse ranch are among the few places where these undocumented workers were kept. “Southwest Missouri is not immune to organized crime — it truly does affect this community,” said Jerry Craig, a supervisor in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Springfield office. “It is happening here and it’s happening now.”
The authorities first caught wind of the smuggling attempt when they pulled over an undocumented worker in New Mexico for speeding. Ruben Martinez-Martinez handed police a fake driver’s license and the officer became suspicious as the man appeared nervous. Once searched, the vehicle contained bundles of meth. Martinez-Martinez told the police that he was supposed to drive the drugs to Springfield and in return pay off $2,000 of his debt for the help he got coming to the country illegally. All immigrants caught associated with the organization in charge of the smuggling said they were just trying to make a better life for their families. With promises of a better life and higher wages, the immigrants pay all they have to these border-crossing specialists known as “coyotes.” Many of the immigrants who get caught up in this business are scared that if they refuse to transport the drugs their families will be endangered. “Whether it is real or not, they believe it,” Craig said. The immigrants are trained to know little information about the operation and to fear the police since they are in the U.S. unlawfully.