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Pedro Sanchez-Garay worked as an Uber driver in Southern California, but he got evicted from his apartment and the money wasn’t rolling in fast enough. So he figured he would broaden his pool of riders.
He answered a request on social media for some off-the-books driving — of illegal immigrants.
Instructions - Pickup - WhatsApp - Messaging - Service
Instructions for each pickup were provided over WhatsApp, an encrypted messaging service run by Facebook. He was promised $1,000 a pop to pick them up just after they crossed the border and drive them north deeper into the interior.
It’s the gig economy of the border, or as one observer termed it, iCoyote.
Anyone - Border - Smuggler - Online - Ad
Now anyone can become a border smuggler simply by responding to an online ad. The who, what, when and where can be exchanged over cellphones with WhatsApp or Snapchat, and sending a GPS “pin” location can connect the driver to migrants, even in the remote southwestern desert.
The cartels that control the border post scouts, who call drivers with real-time updates on where the Border Patrol is and, more important, where agents are not. Knowing whether a highway checkpoint is closed can make the difference between a successful smuggling run or a trip to jail.
Foot - Guides - Coyotes - Migrants - Arizona
Even the foot guides, dubbed “coyotes,” who traditionally lead migrants through the Arizona and California deserts or around Border Patrol checkpoints deeper into the interior, are being replaced. Now migrants leaving Mexico are handed phones and told to follow a GPS map or to dial a scout for instructions to their pickup location on the U.S. side.
“The internet itself is being used for human smuggling, and I don’t think the criminal element has really touched the surface,” said Victor M. Manjarrez Jr., former chief agent of the Border Patrol’s Tucson sector and now associate director at the University of Texas at El Paso’s Center for Law and Human...
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