Smugglers Utilize Social Media to Recruit Minors

Rio Grande Valley Sector (RGV) Border Patrol are seeing a trend of Transnational Criminal Organization’s (TCO) using social media to recruit minors for their smuggling operations.

RGV agents have encountered more than 137K migrants between Oct. 1, to Dec. 31, 2021, which is a 163 percent increase over the same reporting period of the previous year. RGV Agents have seized over 11,000 pounds of narcotics this fiscal year, which is approximately 43 percent of all narcotics seized by the U.S. Border Patrol across the nation between the ports of entry.

With an increase in illicit activity, TCOs require more manpower to carry out their operations. Social media has become an avenue for human smugglers to target juvenile drivers. 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. 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 use of social media has allowed local smugglers to expand their network’s reach. New recruits are not only from the Rio Grande Valley. Authorities have arrested drivers from San Antonio, Houston, and other areas, some as young as 13-years old.

This fiscal year, RGV agents have engaged in more than 99 vehicle pursuits during migrant and narcotic smuggling attempts, primarily on U.S. Highway 83, Hwy 281, and Hwy 77. In FY21, RGV agents reported 257 vehicle pursuits. Most of these pursuits involve vehicles loaded with migrants well over the manufacturers’ intended passenger limit in order to maximize monetary gain.

These drivers not only put themselves in danger, but also those being smuggled, the public, and law enforcement officers.

RGV works diligently to prevent injury or deaths while securing our border. To address this ongoing trend, agents will continue to collaborate with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to identify and take appropriate enforcement actions against those individuals involved in narcotic and migrant smuggling.

RGV Chief Patrol Agent Brian S. Hastings stated, “This is an alarming trend, because many of these teenagers underestimate the severity of the crime. Not only can they be prosecuted and sent to jail, but they also endanger lives through their actions. I encourage parents to talk to their children and educate them on the potential consequences and dangers of this trend.”