DEL RIO, Texas — Stacks of cash, guns and chases—it’s how the cartels are glamourizing human smuggling on social media in an effort to recruit smugglers.
“Their main commodity is human smuggling. Narcotics has always been their primary source of income, but right now they're seeing the influx of migrants coming across, so they're going to exploit that. They're going to profit off of it,” said Lt. Chris Olivares, with the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Texas DPS officials said criminal organizations are ramping up efforts to move more migrants into the country illegally, offering thousands of dollars per person.
“It’s a lucrative business right now,” Olivares said.
But state troopers are fast on their trail, and new legislation could make it ever harder for smugglers to make the big bucks.
DPS shared some of those social media videos with KENS 5, showing stacks of money and drivers escaping authorities. The clips are making the rounds on Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram as cartels hope to lure in potential smugglers with a promise of fast cash.
“They're going as far as advertising on social media to hire drivers from other areas,” Olivares said. “So that's what we're seeing here in Del Rio. We're seeing drivers coming from larger cities—Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin.”
The criminal organizations are luring drivers of all ages, too.
This month, Junction Police said two seniors in their late 70s were accused of smuggling three migrants from Honduras in a minivan with a handicap placard.
Olivares said smuggler drivers are coming from out of state as well.
“I spoke to a trooper yesterday when we were out with doing a ridealong, and they made an arrest of individuals from out of state, from Nebraska, coming over here for the sole purpose to smuggle migrants across,” Olivares said.
Governor Greg Abbott has launched a massive crackdown on human smugglers, adding hundreds of additional state troopers to patrol the roadways along the border.
The effort is taking a new turn on Sept. 1, when Olivares said new legislation will go into effect with stronger consequences for smugglers.
“They're getting very bold, very brazen on what they're doing. Their tactics are changing,” Olivares said. “So, with this new implementation by the governor, it's going to help us arrest smugglers and also prosecute these smuggling as well.”