Migrant smugglers are now selling their secrets on how to enter the US illegally as part of travel “packages” offered to asylum seekers on social media for $10,000, officials warn.
The newly revealed move is being touted by people smugglers — known as coyotes — as part of what they call an essential package that offers step-by-step instructions on how to avoid border patrol through social media apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Tiktok and Facebook, according to Mexico’s National Institute of Migration.
“They are sold complete packages for $10,000 to bring them from, say, Colombia all the way to Tijuana,” NIM Director David Pérez Tejada told Border Patrol. “Then they are met with a guide who shows them where to cross and how to download further instructions.
“They are using these digital platforms, showing them routes, which are then shared with fellow countrymen,” he added. “They also upload TikToks or Facebook [posts] detailing their crossings in real-time so others know where to go.”
Enrique Lucero of Tijuana’s Migrant Affairs Office said the use of technology by migrants and smugglers has only grown in recent years, with coyotes promoting their services on YouTube last month, boasting about how easy it is to cross the border.
Lucero said the latest wave of social media advertisements are enticing enough to keep migrants continuing to sell everything they own in hopes of getting the key to enter the US and share what they’ve learned.
“There are migrants from South or Central America who are paying anywhere from [a total of] $12,000 to $15,000 to get across the border and for further digital instructions,” Lucero said.
“Smugglers convince them to sell all their properties and tell them someone will greet them when they get here, which oftentimes doesn’t happen and they end up stranded in Tijuana.”
Both Mexican and American authorities have ramped up warnings for migrants not to hire smugglers during a rise in violent incidents across the border, as coyotes are growing more and more desperate to conduct business under the ever-watchful eye of Border Patrol.
Last month, a Border Patrol agent confronting a group of migrants crossing into California through the Otay Mountain Wilderness was shot at multiple times by a suspected smuggler, officials said.
“Smuggling organizations are becoming desperate and escalating their level of violence because of the work being performed by U.S. Border Patrol agents,” said San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Patricia McGurk-Daniel in a recent statement.
“Our agents are preventing smugglers from conducting their illicit business and this is their very dangerous response,” McGurk-Daniel added. “This callous display clearly shows that smugglers do not care about the safety of migrants or law enforcement.”
The situation comes as US Border Patrol officials arrested at least 91,000 migrants who crossed the border as part of family groups in August, according to preliminary data obtained by the Washington Post — beating the previous one-month record of 84,486 migrant families arrested in May 2019 under the Trump administration.