The cold blooded murder of 72 illegal migrants by members of Mexico’s notorious Zeta cartel in the state of Tamaulipas is another stark and gruesome reminder of the current criminal and drug-related turmoil in Mexico.  According to press reports the victims came from Honduras, El Salvador, Brazil and Ecuador.  The lone survivor stated the migrants were killed for failing to pay off their Mexican captors.  This massacre runs against the conventional narrative that the escalating violence in Mexico primarily pits drug trafficker-against-drug trafficker.  It shows the significant overlap between transnational criminal organizations and human smuggling.

Why then were these migrants and tens of thousands like them still willing to risk the perilous journey?  Why is there still such a high expectation that migrants will successfully cross the U.S.-Mexican border and find shelter in the U.S?

Amnesty International rushed to blame the Mexican government for failing to “protect” illegal immigrants.

“This discovery once again demonstrates the extreme danger and violence that Central Americans face on their treacherous journey north, as well as Mexican authorities’ abject failure to protect them,” Amnesty International said. “Mexico must immediately investigate this massacre, bring the perpetrators to justice and establish the identities of those killed so that their families can be informed.”

Such harsh criticism of Mexico alone is not entirely merited.  The Tamaulipas massacre is yet another indication of systemic failures and of a chain of complicity that runs up and down the line.  It begins in Central and South America where leaders, politicians and large segments of society view the export of migrants to the U.S. as an easy solution to poverty and poor economic policies.  It involves Mexico where porous borders, lax enforcement and corrupt officials either ignore or even facilitate massive movements toward the U.S.  It involves the ruthless criminal cartels who victimize even the weakest without mercy.  It ends in the U.S. where failures and inconsistencies in enforcing immigration law and the Obama administration’s implementation of a de facto amnesty for the vast majority of illegal immigrants, helps to fuel the hopes of illegal migrants headed to the U.S.

As Heritage’s Jim Carafano observed last year: The Administration can’t fight cartels and ignore illegal immigration.  People smuggling is part of the problem, not a separate issue.”  He adds, “legalization will only make matters worse. Granting asylum to people here illegally would only encourage more illegal border crossing. It always has in the past, because people assume that—if they enter illegally, they’ll eventually be “amnestied” too.  Likewise, failure to enforce workplace and immigration laws only encourages more to ignore the law.”

These latest victims among Mexico’s 28,000 drug-related dead certainly carried with them a firm belief they could successfully cross the U.S.-Mexican border.  It was this hope – understandable but both patently illegal and highly dangerous – that led to the tragic ending on a ranch in rural Mexico.