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Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is seeing a growing trend of transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) using social media to recruit American teenagers to help them smuggle drugs, illegal immigrants and other illicit cargo into the United States.
In a release, CBP said agents in the Rio Grande Valley Sector have encountered over 137,000 migrants between October and the end of December – a 163% increase over the same time in 2020. Additionally, it has seen a 43% increase in narcotics seizures.
With that enormous traffic, human smugglers have increasingly turned to social media to target young drivers to smuggle migrants.
“TCOs are luring minors to smuggle migrants across border towns in the Rio Grande Valley and into the U.S. interior with the promise of fast cash,” CBP said. “TCOs convince juvenile drivers that they will not face the same consequences as adults if apprehended or that law enforcement will disengage a pursuit if dangerous conditions are present.”
“The result is an increase in erratic driving by inexperienced drivers, often observed exceeding posted speed limits, and driving against oncoming traffic.”
The agency said authorities have arrested drivers from San Antonio, Houston and elsewhere – including drivers as young as 13.
Meanwhile, agents have engaged in over 99 pursuits of vehicles so far this fiscal year, on the back of 257 chases in FY 2021 – most involving cars loaded with migrants.
Fox News reported last year, as the crisis at the southern border was heating up, that cartels were targeting teenagers on social media apps and offering more than $3,000 a ride for teens and young adults to drive migrants into the U.S.
“Need 2 or 3 drivers to go through a checkpoint,” one ad said.
“Got another 6 left, already crossed. Lemme know ASAP for that easy cash,” another said.
If they take it, their job is often to get migrants through checkpoints and then to a drop-off location like a store parking lot, where the migrants are picked up by someone trusted by the cartel and transferred to stash houses scattered along the border.
Fox News’ Aishah Hasnie contributed to this report.