Migrant Smuggling and False Promises on Social Media
“Travel to Mexico to the United States. Costs $8,000. 100 percent safe.” Facebook is rampant with smugglers and coyotes spreading the false promise of a safe entry into the United States to foreigners. Some of the Facebook group names include “Migrants from Various Countries in Mexico” and “Migrants in the Mexico-U.S.A Border Awaiting Hearing.” The Facebook pages have hundreds of posts daily.
A recent post included a picture of a family with luggage, masked, and on a plane, with the caption, “make your dream a reality in the United States.” Other posts on these groups come from people desperate to immigrate. On one of these groups, when one woman posted “someone help me go to the United States,” a flood of smugglers responded with their rates, travel destinations, and WhatsApp numbers.
Smugglers openly advertise their prices, posting pictures of supposedly satisfied clients. When foreigners connect with strangers on the internet hoping for help migrating, there is very little security. Before the growth of social media, coyotes and smugglers had to build relationships with particular neighborhoods and communities if they wanted clients. Now, both smugglers and hopeful migrants sometimes know little about one another before connecting in person.
Nevertheless, as one coyote told the Los Angeles Times, “this is a business based on trust.” This coyote also said that “the child is the treasure” as migrants attempt to cross the border. Traveling with a child can spare an adult from months awaiting trial or locked in a detention center.
Smugglers continue to shamelessly advertise their services off social media. CBS News’ Manuel Bojorquez, traveling through Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, saw many signs advertising smuggling services and offering loans to hopeful migrants to pay for the journey. Bojorquez called a number on one of the signs and was immediately disconnected after sharing his credentials.
The Biden Administration has gone on some Facebook message boards to tell people not to come to the United States. Various organizations are reporting posts and smuggling groups. However, even if Facebook takes down 100 posts, they will all be replaced almost immediately.
The Biden Administration has used radio messages to dissuade Guatamaleans from attempting to cross the US-Mexico border, saying “don’t put your children’s lives at risk over false hopes.”
The lucrative virtual business has only grown in the past months, as smuggles spread misinformation about accepting policies of the Biden Administration. The Department of Homeland Security believes that the surge in immigration at the border is in part due to this rise in misinformation about the Biden Administration. Despite the claims of many smugglers, immigrants, let unaccompanied minors are likely to be deported and shown little tolerance even under Biden.
Many smugglers also do not have their clients’ best interests in mind. The U.S. Border Patrol recently released a video of a crying 10-year old boy in the Rio Grande who was abandoned by coyotes. He had previously been expelled from the United States by Trump. “Can you help me?” he desperately asked a Border Patrol agent. After his capture, the child spent a week in border patrol custody, although the legal limit is 72 hours. He was transferred to Health and Human Services after this.
Footage of the border wall released by border authorities on March 31 shows smugglers drop two small children over the wall and run away. Straddling a 14-foot buried by Santa Teresa, New Mexico, a man lowers a small toddler in his right arm. With the child still clinging onto him, he lets go, letting it fall nearly the height of the wall. The smuggler then repeats this with another child. Then, he runs off, another smuggler awaiting him on the other side of the border.
This extreme act exemplifies all that many families are willing to sacrifice for their children to come to the United States: safety, a cohesive family, security. For those who advocate for more flexible immigration law, events like this exemplify why immigration laws need to change, making immigration easier for families and children. For those who oppose immigration, this confirms that laws need to be more strictly enforced. More importantly, for prospective migrants, this shows that crossing the southern border is extremely perilous.
With social media, where both coyotes can easily connect with hopeful migrants and spread misinformation, migrant smuggling is growing and becoming more difficult to control. Trust is no longer central to every transaction. The Biden Administration must continue their work addressing the root cause of this large influx of illegal immigration, or rampant smuggling may persist indefinitely.