Cartels are using social media apps such as TikTok to recruit American teenagers to help smuggle illegal immigrants into the United States, according to a Fox News report.
The online ads soliciting "drivers" promise young people "easy cash" to drive migrants past checkpoints mostly located on major highways heading north in the southern U.S. border area.
American teens in South Texas are reportedly being targeted by cartels to drive illegal immigrants through U.S. checkpoints and then transport them to a "drop-off location like a store parking lot, where the migrants are then picked up by someone trusted by the cartel and transferred to stash houses scattered along the border."
The report claims that American teens "often use their parents' SUVs to make these trips to ferry migrants, without them knowing."
"One teenager's mother, a nurse, started crying when she got a call from authorities about the business her daughter was conducting," Fox News said. "But with authorities so overwhelmed, teens are often getting little more than a slap on the wrist."
The news outlet posted screenshots from social media showing criminal organizations offering American young adults as much as $3,500 per trip to transport migrants across the U.S. southern border. The rides provided by American teens enable illegal immigrants to sneak past the U.S. Border Patrol without having to traverse the harsh terrain of northern Mexico.
More than 172,000 people in total attempted to cross into the United States last month, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. CBP said 18,890 unaccompanied children were encountered by U.S. border authorities in March — a 100% increase over February.
CBP officials say that each day there are nearly 1,000 "got aways" or illegal immigrants sneaking into the U.S. without being identified or taken into custody, which is the "highest in recent memory," according to a Washington Post report.
A 2019 report from Quartz said illegal immigrants pay coyotes between $6,000 and $10,000 to be smuggled into the United States. A Reuters article from last year said prices ranged from $7,000 to $14,000.
"Border Patrol officers told me that the Biden administration policies, they are enriching and they are empowering the drug cartels in Mexico, who make money off of the people that they assist in smuggling them into the state of Texas," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said last month. "The cartels make money off of these migrants that you and your viewers see on TV."
Abbott wrote a letter to President Biden last week calling for cartels to be labeled as terrorist organizations.
Former U.S. Marshal Robert Almonte of El Paso, Texas, says cartels are quickly realizing that it's more cost-effective to be involved in human smuggling than drug trafficking.
"The drug cartels get paid one time and one time only and very often they don't get their money right away," Almonte told KVIA-TV. "When it comes to human smuggling, the cartels are paid upfront several thousand dollars.
"My concern is that you're going to see a lot of people that had intentions of coming to the greatest country, the United States, being circumvented by the Mexican cartel, taken off track, and forced into human trafficking, sex trafficking, or other criminal activity," Almonte said.
A new report from Human Rights First found nearly 500 acts of violence, including rape and kidnapping, against asylum-seekers who were denied entry into the United States since Joe Biden was elected president.
Last week, Biden finally recognized the border crisis, but his own administration quickly walked back the president's comments by saying the word "crisis" is not reflective of the "administration's official position."