Cartels using social media to attract younger human smugglers on the U.S. side

Border Crime

WESLACO, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The Texas Department of Public Safety held an update on Operation Lone Star Thursday morning.

DPS is working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to stop human smuggling in the Rio Grande Valley. Chris Olivarez, a lieutenant with DPS, said they are seeing more teen human smugglers.

“We’re starting to see, too, is the Valley’s juveniles and 16-year-olds that are driving that are becoming human smugglers because of what is being advertised by these criminal organizations,” Olivarez said.

He said cartels are using social media to recruit teens, and they’re doing it in a way to avoid detection from the police.

“They don’t come out directly and say, ‘We’re recruiting drivers to smuggle illegal immigrants.’ But what they do say is advertising drivers needed,” Olivarez said. “They’ll show stacks of money, they’ll show photos of some illegal immigrants in trunks and vehicles.”

Texas DPS doesn’t have the power to make social media platforms take down that content when they find it. Olivarez said only social media sites can do that.

“[The cartels are] very smart with how they advertise it, they know where to stay away so it doesn’t cause any issues with the social media platforms,” he said.

The advertising tactics, using social media sites like TikTok and Instagram, are attracting younger drivers who want to make some quick cash.

“It’s very enticing seeing stacks of money on social media,” Olivarez said. “Now, with the juveniles even more because young adults, juveniles are on social media.”

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