EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The U.S. government is using social media to deter people in Honduras and Guatemala from giving in to smugglers who promise them easy access to the United States.

This week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection began distributing digital ads in platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp. The ads feature images of migrants being apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol or walking along the desert and phrases in Spanish such as, “The coyote (smuggler) is a criminal. Don’t fall for his trap.”

“The smugglers use lies to lure the vulnerable into a dangerous journey that often ends in removal or death,” CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said announcing the two-month social media blitz. “This digital ad campaign is an important component of U.S. government efforts to prevent tragedies and curtail irregular migration.”  

The agency says this isn’t the first time they share such messages with would-be migrants but talked about a “media buy” via mobile telephone to expand on those efforts. The campaign comes during traditional peak times for unauthorized migration, compounded by a considerable year-long spike in the usual numbers. It also comes two weeks prior to the scheduled end of Title 42 expulsions, whose outcome is pending a lawsuit in a federal courtroom in Louisiana.

The messages warn that those attempting to cross the U.S. border without authorization will be removed from the country or placed into immigration removal proceedings. The ads also remind migrants they risk being jailed or extorted along their journey or being abandoned by smugglers and dying in the desert.

Fiscal year 2022 migrant encounters so far. (Graphic courtesy CBP)

The agency is targeting the Northern Triangle because 26 percent of migrants stopped along the Southwest border this fiscal year have come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, according to the latest CBP update.

Mexicans have accounted for 36.87 percent of the encounters this fiscal year, but there was no mention of a digital campaign targeting Mexico yet. Tens of thousands of Mexicans have been internally displaced from their homes in the past four years due to brutal drug cartel wars in states like Michoacan, Guerrero, Jalisco, Guanajuato, Zacatecas, Tamaulipas and Chihuahua.

The agency said the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department track migration trends, share research and coordinate the message to counter smuggling organizations’ tactics and outreach.