Migrant traffickers using TikTok to arrange border crossings into US

Tijuana, Mexico, Apr 20 (EFE).- The so-called “polleros” or people traffickers are now turning to TikTok on Mexico’s northern border to offer – for a price – to get migrants across the frontier into the United States and some of those migrants, amid the uncertainty and immigration restrictions they are having to deal with, are quite willing to hire them.

Activists and authorities in Mexico and the US have warned about the smugglers’ new modus operandi on this social network, talking about how the traffickers are using new technologies to take advantage of migrants’ desperation and vulnerability.

In Tijuana, on Mexico’s border with California, EFE accessed assorted TikTok accounts with posted videos showing the border wall and how the traffickers produce a ladder in seconds and get migrants across the barrier.

The postings have captions like “Crossings into the United States on these dates available; interested parties send me a message” and “Departures for United States … cross 100 percent safely and cheaply,” with some of them accompanied by telephone numbers.

The accounts are usually public, some including the indecipherable names of users and others are individul accounts of people who also share their day to day activities, although most of the ones viewed have just one or two posts offering these border crossing services.

Enrique Lucero Vazquez, Tijuana’s municipal director for migrant outreach, told EFE that the TikTok accounts show how people traffickers are looking for ways to attract business in any way they can.

He warned that this puts migrants in a “completely risky” position because they don’t know the background of these accounts, where they are coming from or who is creating them.

Lucero said that the risks to migrants have increased since the US announced additional immigration restrictions in January, such as the expansion of Title 42 to immediately deport people arriving in the US illegally by land, specifically Venezuelans, Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans.

“This situation is becoming more and more complicated, the product of the fact that there are no easy asylum procedures in the United States or exceptions to Title 42, and so migrants are very vulnerable to falling into the hands of these people who are looking for any way to get an advantage by deceiving (them),” he said.

He criticized the fact that the smugglers are “brazenly mentioning and promoting (their services) on the most popular social networks.”

“And, unfortunately, the migrants are ready to pay the amounts they’re asking, whether it’s because they have some relative who’s paying for the trek, but they fall into (the trap) because the only thing they want is to cross into the US,” Lucero said.

He said that due to the migrants’ vulnerability and the uncertainty about being able to get across the border in other ways, “often they believe (the traffickers) more than the authorities.”

The problem is also illustrated by the record migrant flow throughout the region, with 2.76 million undocumented migrants being detained on the US-Mexico border so far during Fiscal Year 2022.

To deal with the problem, Lucero called for the intervention of the Cybernetic Police from the Attorney General’s Offices and pointed to the responsibility of companies on the social networks.

“Unfortunately, here’s where those in charge of these networks come in, and they should take more care about these postings and put filters in place to prevent them, since they’re not legal. I’m saying that a complaint is not required, but rather, as part of their business, they have to do it,” he said.



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