Grupo Beta is viewed as a humanitarian organization helping immigrants to avoid getting caught in the crossfire between drug cartels south of the border. In Texas, though, it is seen by many as part of an illegal pipeline, sending undocumented immigrants and drugs into the United States, backed and funded by the government of Mexico.
The National Institute of Migration in Mexico supports Grupo Beta, which might be the only place immigrants in the state of Tamaulipas can find relief. The state lies across the border from the south-east region of Texas that includes cities such as Laredo, McAllen and Brownsville. The agency, created 25 years ago to help Tijuana cope with the enormous numbers of immigrants passing through, later expanded to deal with Mexico’s northern and southern borders.
Critics argue that the agency is complicit in the breaking of US laws. National Border Patrol Council vice president, Shawn Moran, says the agency was created with good intentions but has seen many organization members caught smuggling. Supporters believe it now serves a vital function. Former Border Patrol sector chief, Victor Manjarrez, of the Center for Law & Human Behavior at El Paso’s University of Texas, agrees, adding that such activities are now rare.
Moran says he sympathizes with Grupo Beta agents who may be reluctant to become involved with criminal situations, given that the Mexican government has stripped them of guns and their former law enforcement authority. The flood of immigrants shows no sign of slowing, according to Border Patrol figures.