In the 1930s, agents from Mexico’s secret intelligence agency began to investigate reports of collusion between a Mexican coyote named Ramón Preciado, U.S. border agents, and U.S. government officials. Migrants and residents of Nogales, Sonora, accused the man of extorting migrants, sexually assaulting women, and reporting migrants to the Border Patrol. In turn, Border Patrol agents would deport those migrants who refused to pay bribes to Preciado. However, U.S. consular officials described him as a friend of the government, an advisor, and a trusted partner. This article uses this case to illustrate how corruption in migration agencies on both sides of the border allowed migrant smuggling to flourish as a profitable business in the twin border cities of Nogales, Sonora and Nogales, Arizona. Meanwhile, both U.S. officials and coyotes profited from the deportation of migrants, and the nascent Border Patrol used these inflated numbers to champion the success of its agents in guarding the border.

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