The media has us convinced that to get into the US, Mexican citizens pay coyotes (smugglers) to bring them across the border in semi trailers. This is not exactly accurate.
I had never even heard the word coyote until the last decade or so. However, I did know a girl when I was in college who had come here as a child and neither her or her parents had papers. They all eventually got them, but it took a while and she told me about having forged papers for most of her time in school.
They did not run through the desert and then wade across a dry Rio Grande and walk into Texas avoiding border guards in the dead of night. They crossed the border in Texas to go visit her father’s brother in New Jersey and they just didn’t go back to Texas and cross the border back into Mexico.
In other words, they legally crossed the border from Mexico to the US and didn’t go back home. As I understand it, if you live in central America or Mexico and you know someone in the US, that’s how you illegally immigrate into the US. You don’t pay a coyote to smuggle you across as cargo in a semi trailer full of vegetables. You only pay a coyote to take you across when you don’t know anyone. Coyotes take you to an area that is populated by other Hispanic immigrants where someone knows how to forge you papers.
Now forged papers aren’t cheap so if you can’t afford them, you get a job somewhere they don’t ask for them and you save up to get them, especially if you have children because your kids will need them to go to school. If you know someone here already, the fee to get papers is usually cheaper because the business isn’t exclusive, and competition drives down the cost.
Sadly it does mean that you will probably have to consort for a short time with some unsavory characters, but in the larger cities, they aren’t hard to find.
Nowadays most coyotes are also connected to the cartels and the days of truck loads of immigrants packed into semi trailers has decreased significantly because cartels have built drug smuggling tunnels into the US. It’s safer to move drugs through tunnels than through mules or even through trucks filled with crates of coffee beans. This means coyotes can also use the drug smuggling tunnels to smuggle people into the US.