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Parents beware, drug cartels are using social media to lure your teen into smuggling migrants


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One of the consequences of the federal government’s de facto abdication of the southern border to the international drug cartels is that these cartels are devising more ways to profit off of unsuspecting Americans, regardless of human cost.

In a newer development at the southern border, drug cartels are now using SnapChat, Instagram, and other social media apps to recruit American teenagers from around the country to transport migrants and drugs from the border.

High-speed pursuits between these teenagers and local law enforcement have become daily events, and this grave public safety threat is not receiving the attention it deserves.


Teens are being recruited because of their accessibility to social media platforms, impressionability, and youthful greed.  Since October 2021, local law enforcement officials have only one recorded instance of a face-to-face recruitment between a teenager and a smuggler or cartel; the vast majority of encounters occur outside the watchful eyes of parents or guardians over social media.

International drug cartels find willing teenagers who need quick cash and will drive down to the border to assist in the rampant drug and human smuggling. The teens are offered up to $16,000 a day for their lawlessness, but it can cost them their lives and futures.

In addition to recruiting the young drivers, the drug cartels also indoctrinate them on how to evade capture. They are instructed to drive at high speeds when confronted with a traffic stop because they will not receive the promised reward if apprehended by law enforcement.

The cartels also tell these gullible teenagers that under federal human smuggling laws, they cannot be charged with that crime if apprehended, making this a “safe” bet to make some quick cash.


To make matters worse, law enforcement officials often find their hands tied when encountering these misguided teenagers. Due to safety concerns, officers stop pursuing once the chase hits an egregious speed threshold and instead work on protecting other cars and pedestrians ahead of the fleeing vehicles.

Cochise County law enforcement estimates that 2-10 of these high-speed pursuits happen every day, threatening unnecessary death and destruction.


This crisis started to place local law enforcement officials and residents of Cochise County on high alert in October 2021 when law enforcement officials attempted a traffic stop on a 16-year-old from Mesa, who was smuggling migrants in Cochise County in southern Arizona. The teenager suddenly hit the gas, driving over 100 miles per hour through small towns and quiet intersections on a mad dash to avoid apprehension.  He eventually ran a red light, smashing into another vehicle and killing Wanda Sitoski, a local grandmother on her way to meet her son for her 65th birthday dinner.

Cochise County officials have urgently reached out to social media companies, the traditional media, and government officials to highlight the escalating crisis and seek assistance. Yet sadly and shockingly, Cochise County has received little support in its attempts to preserve public safety.


In February, a 17-year-old from Phoenix, with two teenagers in her vehicle, also fled from law enforcement in southern Arizona while on an errand from the cartels. This teenager crashed her vehicle into another car during the pursuit, causing the teenagers’ automobile to roll over. One of the teenage passengers nearly died. Their lives are forever changed.


These terrible stories – and many others – are why Cochise County officials have urgently reached out to social media companies, the traditional media, and government officials to highlight the escalating crisis and seek assistance. Yet sadly and shockingly, Cochise County has received little support in its attempts to preserve public safety.

Unfortunately this border county is not an island, and this issue has and will continue to affect more Americans with each passing day. International drug cartels are taking advantage of social media apps to recruit more teenagers from around the United States to deliver increasing numbers of unknown migrants and deadly drugs into our cities.

Far from being immune to criminal charges, teens are risking their lives and their futures to participate in this lawlessness, in addition to endangering the lives of others. And even if your teenager is not being recruited by the cartels, you can rest assured that those who are being enlisted are transporting deadly drugs into your neighborhoods to wreak havoc on your families.

Because of the platforms on social media for these black market recruitments, more users are falling prey to the cash enticements of these dangerous criminal organizations. These same social media companies have created methods to detect, flag, censor, or block posts of overseas terrorists who attempt to recruit teenagers, but refuse to acknowledge this crisis because of the politics associated with the border.

Parents may not believe that cartels can reach their children hundreds or thousands of miles away, but they need to be told now or it might soon be too late.

Cochise County, Arizona is on the front lines of the escalating crisis at our southern border, and law enforcement officials deserve full cooperation to protect their communities.


As law enforcement officials in our state, we can say with full confidence that we have never seen anything like this crisis at the border and how it is affecting everyday Americans in their communities. While many media outlets have declined to show the American public the disturbing images of increasing high-speed pursuits and other border-related devastation here at home, the death and danger they present are very real; lives are at stake.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle — and Americans across the country — should understand that this lawlessness must not be allowed to continue.

Mark Dannels serves as Sheriff in Cochise County, Arizona.


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