Cartel-connected human smugglers in Mexico and Central America continue to leverage Facebook to recruit migrant customers. The Gulf Cartel currently profits more from smuggling people than drugs.
Since the beginning of the Biden Administration, the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas has seen a dramatic increase in migrant crossings and apprehensions, which rapidly overwhelmed the enforcement and detention capacities of the Department of Homeland Security.
A group known as the Tech Transparency Project has been documenting the use of Facebook by human smugglers to recruit prospective customers amid lacking enforcement by the social media company. According to a recent report by Vice News, smugglers tweaked their marketing strategy to attract pregnant women to take advantage of a directive by the Biden Administration to “not detain, arrest or take into custody pregnant, post-partum or nursing” women. The order does not apply to migrants crossing the border, but to those already in the U.S., Vice claimed in their report pointing to just one strategy by cartel-connected smugglers to use misinformation to lure migrants into getting their services. Despite claims of enforcement by Facebook, smugglers continue to advertise.
The new strategy comes at a time when criminal organizations such as the Gulf Cartel and the Cartel Del Noreste faction of Los Zetas are profiting substantially from human smuggling. The Gulf Cartel controls all of the activities in the Rio Grande Valley and charges between $500 to $800 per migrant to cross the river. Those fees are separate from others related to the journey.
According to figures from the Rio Grande Valley Sector, U.S. Border Patrol agents are apprehending between 1,500 to 3,000 migrants per day.