Law Enforcement Officials Sound Alarm On New Trend

In recent years, there has been a concerning trend occurring in the United States involving American teenagers engaging in illegal smuggling of migrants into the country. According to law enforcement officials, the main motivation behind this is the lure of quick and easy money.

This transnational crime, defined by the federal government as the illegal importation and transportation of people, has been on the rise and is being described as a "gateway" for other criminal activities such as identity theft, document and benefit fraud, gang activity, financial fraud, and even terrorism.

The state of Texas has been at the forefront of this issue, with its Department of Public Safety reporting alarming numbers through its Operation Lone Star (OLS) program. As of January this year, OLS has resulted in over 503,800 illegal immigrant apprehensions and more than 40,400 criminal arrests, including over 36,100 felony charges. The data, which was shared with Newsweek, shows that a wide range of ages are involved in these crimes, from as young as 14 to individuals in their late 70s. The majority of these cases involve individuals motivated by money.

In Texas' neighbor state, Arizona, the situation is similar. Cochise County, located in the southeastern corner of Arizona, has traditionally been a hotbed for human smuggling due to its proximity to the border. The county sheriff, Mark Dannels, who has spent four decades in law enforcement, has noticed a significant increase in the magnitude of human smuggling in recent years. He attributes this to the lack of federal immigration policies by the current administration and the fractured relationship between state, local, and federal authorities.

According to data shared with Newsweek by County Attorney Brian McIntyre, Cochise County has prosecuted 33 juveniles for border-related crimes as of November 2023, with 20 of them charged as adults and 13 as juveniles. The ages of those charged with human smuggling range from 14 to 77. These numbers are concerning, as they represent an alarming trend of young individuals being lured into participating in transnational criminal activities.

One of the main methods used by human smugglers is social media advertisement, with popular platforms such as Snapchat being utilized to recruit young teenagers. Law enforcement officials claim that these ads, which often depict large sums of cash, attract teens looking for quick and easy money.

One of the dangers of this form of recruitment is the false sense of anonymity that social media provides, leading these young individuals to believe that they will not get caught. However, law enforcement has been using advanced tools and technology to combat these crimes and apprehend the perpetrators.

Assistant Special Agent in Charge for U.S. Homeland Security Investigations in Arizona, Ray Rede, has been in law enforcement for 28 years and oversees operations in the Tucson metropolitan area. He has noticed a shift in the way transnational criminal organizations operate, using a co-op model where individual entities provide different services within the smuggling scheme. These organizations exploit social media and encrypted apps to recruit young individuals, who are often unaware that they are joining an organized crime outfit.

Law enforcement officials from both Texas and Arizona have been proactive in addressing this issue. They have been working collectively to reach out to young individuals and their families through talks and presentations at schools, bringing awareness about the dangers and consequences of human smuggling. They urge parents and loved ones to be vigilant and monitor their children's social media usage. In some cases, individuals have anonymously reported their loved ones' involvement in illegal activities, leading to the successful apprehension of perpetrators.

However, despite their efforts, law enforcement officials feel hindered in their fight against human smuggling by the lack of cooperation and engagement from the federal government. They have been trying to reach out to President Biden to address the issue, to no avail. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has also raised concerns that young gang members are getting involved in human trafficking, and it is the result of the administration's lack of federal immigration policies.

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