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Desert Diary


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National borders are interesting places. It's at the borders that laws and economies change, and there are always those ready to take advantage. In El Paso and other places along the Mexico-U.S. border, smuggling has been and is big business. One country or the other always has something the other one wants. Often, it's the differences in taxes that lead to smuggling. Cigarettes in the United States are relatively cheap—the taxes on them are not. The differential in overall price makes cigarette smuggling a multi-million dollar enterprise.

The differential in wages draws Mexican citizens to the U.S., often aided by smugglers, the infamous coyotes. It hasn't always been hispanics—at one time, El Paso was a major center for smuggling Chinese into the country.

One of the sadder aspects of border smuggling is that of exotic birds such as parrots for the pet trade. Stuffed into every conceivable hiding place and sometimes drugged to keep them quiet, estimates of the death toll are as high as 90%. Clearly, it's not only the parrots that are bird-brained!
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Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.