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El Paso teens recruited to smuggle migrants into the United States through social media

EL PASO, Texas – In recent days, we've seen juveniles used to transport migrants into the United States.

On Monday, a 19-year-old El Paso resident was driving a car that overturned in an Upper Valley canal.

One person died as a result, and another six people were in the vehicle during the crash. 

Police said the driver was speeding when he lost control of the vehicle. Before stopping, the driver hit a Border Patrol vehicle. 

Robert Almonte, a former U.S. Marshal of the Western District of Texas, said young drivers are being enticed more frequently now. 

“We are seeing an increase in teenagers from the United States being recruited by the Mexican cartel to transport migrants into the United States,” he said. 

Almonte said most of the drivers are paid to drop off the migrants at a store parking lot and are taken to a stash house. 

“Cartels are using social media to recruit these young teenagers, and in some cases, authorities have found these smugglers from the United States as young as 13 and 14 years old,” Almonte said. 

According to Almonte, drivers are paid $2,000-3,000 to transport one person. Many times the drivers are found with multiple migrants crammed in one vehicle. 

“The bottom line is they know they are probably going to get a slap on the wrist, and they are not going to get any jail time or anything like that," he said.

Almonte said many times parents are unaware of what is happening.

"The parents need to be aware also because there has been several cases where the teenagers have taken their parents' vehicle, their SUV, so they can put more people in the vehicle and they take their SUV without them knowing," he said.

U.S. Border Patrol agents in the El Paso sector said the majority of drivers recently caught in human smuggling schemes are teens or young adults.

Carlos Rivera, public affairs for the EL Paso sector for Border Patrol, said the juveniles understand the job they signed up for.

He said they don't understand the legal consequences they can face.

"Transnational organizations are recruiting this population because they are impressionable," Rivera said.

Since October 2021, 538 people have been prosecuted for human smuggling.

Rivera said the teen drivers are trained to flee from Border Patrol agents and as that leads to serious crashes.

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Rosemary Montañez

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