In a troubling new trend, it has become more common that Human smugglers are advertising on social media sites, such as Facebook, falsely telling Central Americans interested in crossing illegally into the United States that they can promise a “100 percent” safe journey. While the use of social media by these types of smugglers is not new, the trend has been rising dramatically, and has been fueling false hope as more migrants fall victim to the lies and false information about how the new Biden administration will welcome them, according to Department of Homeland Security officials, immigration experts and lawyers. One post written in Spanish read “Travel to Mexico to the United States. Costs $8,000. 100 percent safe. Cross through Matamoros. You walk one hour, after in automobile until you arrive to your relative.” A report from NBC News discovered Facebook pages with names like “Migrants from Various Countries in Mexico” and “Migrants in the Mexico-U.S.A. Border Awaiting Hearing.” The pages had multiple posts a day: some smugglers, also known as coyotes, posting ads, others from desperate Central Americans seeking information about how best to immigrate to the U.S.
The Department of Homeland Security, which monitors social media posts by potential immigrants, believes the misinformation spread by smugglers is partly to blame for the recent surge at the border. In some cases, negotiations take place after initial pleas for help from migrants looking for ways to cross the border. “Someone help me go to the United States,” a person posted to one of the Facebook groups. It was not long before the post got several comments from people providing their smuggling rates, destinations and WhatsApp numbers. Technically, Facebook policy prohibits human exploitation and trafficking and the company removes such content when it is identified or flagged by users, but this can often be a lagged process and the posts can often run unflagged for extensive periods.