Human Traffickers at Border Using Local Teens as “Mules”

Human smugglers are increasingly using U.S. teens to navigate illegal migrants crossing the nation’s southern border in a lucrative but dangerous job.

Called “Ubers” by some locals, the teens make $100 or more per migrant, normally Mexican adults, and are recruited through social media. Promises are made that, because they are minors, they are unlikely to face legal consequences if caught. Federal defenders report that, if the youth has not faced legal trouble before, the normal result is probation until the age of 21.

The young drivers are encouraged to go fast when pursued because, according to the recruiters, law enforcement will stop pursuing them. In some border areas, one in four drivers caught smuggling migrants in the last fiscal year were teenagers, some as young as 13.

In 2020, an El Paso 18-year-old was transporting migrants in a car crammed with 10 people when Border Patrol agents took up pursuit. The ensuing crash killed four local teens and three migrants.

Last October, a teenage TikTok star with over 2.2 million followers was smuggling three illegal migrants in south Texas when police attempted to pull him over. 19-year-old Gabriel Salazar ran off the road, overcorrected, and died in the fiery crash along with two of the migrants.

The ACLU and some U.S. lawmakers call for Border Patrol agents to only pursue suspects at high speed if there is evidence of a violent crime. Reports say at least 22 persons died last year while being pursued by Border Patrol vehicles. Of course, there is little way for the overburdened agents to know the age of the person driving the vehicle.

Now, with the Biden administration’s plan to rescind Title 42 as of May 23, the flood of migrants across the border is gearing up to reach unprecedented numbers. The pandemic-era order enabled the quick deportation of hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants, but Democrats and immigration activists kept pressure on the White House to undo the order.

There are estimates of nearly 200,000 migrants waiting in camps on the Mexican side of the border, and federal authorities are preparing for as many as 18,000 daily encounters with illegal migrants. The lucrative practice of using U.S. teens to smuggle human cargo, far from going away, is set to increase in both volume and likely tragic consequences.