Human smugglers are targeting teens on apps like TikTok and Instagram, offering them money to pick up migrants who cross over the Rio Grande from Mexico.
Christopher Olivarez, who is a public information officer for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said the smuggling organizations are starting to use and recruit juveniles through social media platforms, according to Fox News.
“TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, even using WhatsApp for those encrypted messaging. There’s always been an issue with human smuggling. But what we’re seeing right now lately, which we have never seen in prior years is the use of juveniles. So, the smuggling organizations are starting to use and recruit juveniles through social media platforms.”
According to Fox News, the migrants will cross over the Rio Grande from Mexico traveling through private property to get to state highways. That’s where teen drivers will pick up migrants helping them travel to bigger cities like San Antonio, Austin or Houston.
Oliveras said criminals are strategic.
“They’re not coming out saying we need drivers for human smuggling or drivers for drug smuggling. I mean, they’ll typically just say we need drivers wanted and drivers needed, and they’ll show videos of stacks of money,” Oliveras said.
The Department of Homeland Security arrested around 1,700 human smugglers in 2020 and over 2,300 in 2021. Authorities think it could be worse this year.
Texas Department of Public Safety says it’s important to warn kids of these social media schemes and educate them on the consequences of human smuggling. Since Operation Lone Star they have made over 14,000 arrests and over 12,000 of those are felony arrests.