An estimated 57,000 illegal immigrant youths have entered the U.S. since October of last year, creating a big problem for the Border Patrol agents who process them -- and a big payday for the smugglers who get them here.

The smugglers, called "coyotes," can earn up to $5,000 per head for guiding illegal immigrants from Honduras into the United States, according to an expert interviewed by the Boston Herald. This means illegal immigration is easily a multimillion-dollar business for those involved.

“There's a lot of money involved in bringing all those children to the border,” Victor Clark-Alfaro, director of the Tijuana, Mexico-based Binational Center for Human Rights, told the Herald. “They bring them to the border to the U.S. side and tell them to look for Border Patrol.”

U.S. Border Patrol agents have been overwhelmed by the influx of unaccompanied minors and family groups crossing the border, despite evidence of the coming crisis that appeared as early as two years ago.

“There were warning signs, operational folks raising red flags to high levels in terms of this being a potential issue,” one former federal law enforcement official told the Washington Post.

Thousands of illegal immigrant minors have declared themselves to Border Patrol agents, lured by rumors that they will be given a free pass (“permisos”) to stay if they do. Many others have avoided interdiction or died on the arduous trek north --sometimes abandoned by the very coyotes paid to help them.

The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Immigration Statistics estimates that 142,000 alien minors could be apprehended at the border by 2015, so the boom will continue for coyotes and their drug cartel connections.

“The coyotes know that they [the immigrants] are probably going to be released to their relatives in the U.S. and probably going to be granted asylum,” Clark-Alfaro told the Boston Herald. “What is happening is fostering more children to come. It’s a message that has already been spread in Central America.”