Mexican criminal cartels are increasingly using social media to recruit people in the U.S. to help with their smuggling operations at the southern border, just as the U.S. is facing a historic migrant surge – with the apprehension of a tractor-trailer packed with dozens of migrants marking the latest instance of such recruitment methods.
Transnational criminal organizations coordinate operations at both sides of the border, with operatives picking up drugs, contraband, and migrants as they come across the border illegally. Traffic has increased exponentially in recent years, with Border Patrol agents making over 2.1 million encounters this fiscal year so far — not including the approximately 600,000 migrant “got aways” who are believed to have gotten past overwhelmed agents.
A video posted on Wednesday and verified by the Texas Department of Public Safety shows a message in front of an image of a tractor-trailer.
Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra (Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra)
“Need someone who can drive an 18-wheeler right now McAllen to Houston already ready $70k.”
Hidalgo County sheriff’s deputies later located 84 migrants on Thursday afternoon as they unloaded from a tractor-trailer just 12 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas.
Texas DPS spokesman Christopher Olivarez said that law enforcement has seen an uptick in recruitment videos on social media sites since last year.
It’s a long-standing area of concern, which includes the recruitment of teenagers by the cartels. Authorities have said that TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp have all been used to recruit juveniles.
The use of the platforms has raised attention ever since the start of the migrant crisis early last year. Media outlets are constantly reporting on how “Cartel TikTok” racked up millions of views online.
Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee wrote to TikTok about both the use of the platform to recruit smugglers and also to threaten and stalk Border Patrol agents.
“It appears that via your platform cartel members are openly glorifying and normalizing illegal behavior and violence to recruit new members, most recently American teenagers,” the letter said.
A TikTok spokesperson told Fox News Digital at that time: “TikTok strictly prohibits the promotion or facilitation of criminal activities, and we work with third-party intelligence firms to bolster identification of potential trafficking or smuggling and make reports to law enforcement as appropriate.”
Smugglers have used WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram to advertise caravans that are forming in countries in Central America.