Border Patrol has stepped up its school program to warn teens not to be lured by cartels on social media

Border Patrol agents who visit schools to teach children about the risks of drugs and human trafficking have also begun to warn against attractive social media posts from cartels that promise easy money in exchange for migrant smuggling.

“Social media has forced us to step up our game when it comes to high school outreach, in particular,” a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official said. Caller’s Daily News Foundation. “It’s really flattened the communication cycle, and now it’s much easier for transnational criminal organizations to get into young people’s lives and lure them in with money.” And so that’s our biggest challenge when it comes to the communication device.

Gregory Aldaya, a 14-year Border Patrol veteran, worked with the program in the Texas border community in the Rio Grande Valley area. Border Patrol school outreach programs aim to highlight the dangers of human trafficking “because there’s a lot of messaging through TCOs (transnational criminal organizations),” Aldaya told The Daily Mail. DCNF.

“They don’t tell them the sentence and the consequences involved,” Aldaya said. “They just make it so appealing, and every situation is different, they might need some quick cash for whatever reason.”

In February, CBP describe a “trend” in the Rio Grande Valley sector of the TCO to recruit minors on social media to help with their smuggling operations.

“Social media has become a way for smugglers to target young drivers,” CBP said in a press release. “TCOs lure minors to smuggle migrants through border towns in the Rio Grande Valley and into the interior of the United States with the promise of quick money. TCOs convince young drivers that they will not suffer the same consequences as adults if apprehended or that law enforcement will dismiss a pursuit if unsafe conditions are present.

“The result is an increase in erratic driving by inexperienced drivers, often observed exceeding posted speed limits and driving in the wrong direction. The use of social media has enabled local smugglers to extend the reach of their network,” said “The new recruits aren’t just from the Rio Grande Valley. Authorities have arrested drivers from San Antonio, Houston and other areas, some as young as 13.”

In fiscal year 2022, Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley sector had 99 vehicle pursuits of attempted smuggling immigrants and drugs. In fiscal year 2021, Border Patrol agents in that same area engaged in 257 vehicle pursuits.

The sector continues to see high volumes of migrants crossing the border into the United States In February, officers meet 33,838 migrants, an increase of 19% compared to February 2021.

In middle and high schools, agents are bringing what is known as “Operation Detour,” which last year for high school students focused on tactics used by social media cartels.

Aldaya said officers stress to teenagers that they can ‘fall prey’ to smugglers who come into contact via social media, telling them there are real dangers working for them that can be deadly . “It just doesn’t pay to get involved in that, in those roads,” he said.

Many schools are close to the border and students as young as 13 are targeted to join criminal operations, Aldaya said.

“They target them directly because they are younger,” he explained. “And I guess the idea is that they can’t be prosecuted or have some sort of sanction for doing that, but we work very closely with our agency partners and even if it’s not prosecuted through us, the state can also lay charges, and we see that a lot with juveniles.

When Aldaya taught the program, officers showed students videos of real events to convey the message that “they will end up in jail or lose their lives” if they participate in the smuggling operation, Aldaya said. .

“With the number of people that can be in a vehicle, I mean it can be very loaded, and the possibility of them rolling over or rolling over are real dangers,” Aldaya said. “Not only for them, but also for the people they transport.”

Aldaya thinks the programs have a lasting impact, adding that students often remember the agents who helped them stay out of trouble.

“If we can catch that person before they’re convinced to do these dangerous things, and possibly lose their life or be responsible for others as well, or just go down the wrong path, then that’s a win,” he said. -he declares.

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