People smuggling rings resort to paid online advertising to entice pregnant women and mothers of young children to unlawfully enter the United States.
Human traffickers linked to cartels in Mexico and Central America have sponsored Facebook ads, and used WhatsApp commercial accounts, to recruit new migrant customers.
Vice News reported smugglers recently updated their marketing strategy to lure pregnant women, and profit from a Biden administration directive to not “detain, arrest or take into custody pregnant, postpartum or nursing women.”
The policy, which took effect on July 1, directs U.S. Customs and Border Protection not to detain pregnant migrant women who cross the national border. Pregnant women often travel alone and are treated the same as single adults, almost all of whom are returned to Mexico under COVID restrictions.
However, many migrants do not know they cannot stay in the United States. Their poor understanding of U.S. law means they have become an easy target for smugglers to turn a quick profit.
Traffickers are also allegedly using eased pandemic restrictions to mislead desperate Central Americans into believing the U.S. border might suddenly reopen for them.
Facebook will not remove the offending ads because they allegedly comply with user requirements. This lets smugglers continue to advertise on the social network, and make money from ill-informed migrants.
Mexico’s Gulf Cartel profits more from human trafficking than drug sales. Criminals reportedly control all human smuggling activities across the Rio Grande Valley, and charge between $500 and $800 per migrant to cross the river. The fee does not include other travel-related expenses, according to Breitbart.
The number of illegal migrants caught at the U.S.-Mexico border recently hit 20 year highs, with between 1,500 and 3,000 detained daily. Republicans lawmakers blame Joe Biden’s decision to repeal the “Wait in Mexico” policy, also known as the Migrant Protection Protocol, and other strict Trump-era immigration policies.
The Tech Transparency Project (TTP) has documented human trafficking activity on Facebook. The group accused the social network of failing to comply with requests to stop people smugglers.
“When presented with a list of 50 human smuggler pages in April, Facebook took down about half, while inexplicably leaving the others up and running,” TTP said in a report. “Facebook has, in many ways, become a one stop shop for human smugglers–allowing them to identify, solicit, and privately communicate with would-be migrants.”
TTP does not believe the internet company’s lack of enforcement is a “coincidence.”
“Facebook has used controversial internet-connectivity programs to make itself ubiquitous in Latin America, while struggling to effectively police its platform,” the report said.
Facebook fired back at the publication, claiming it strictly forbids people trafficking on its platform.
“We prohibit content that offers to provide or facilitate human smuggling,” a representative said in a statement obtained by Fox News.
However, the company concedes it needs users to help report such content, in order to remove the offending content in a timely manner.
“We rely on people and technology to remove this content, and work with non-government organizations–and other stakeholders–to combat ways our platform may be used by those who want to harm people,” the representative said according to the broadcaster. “We are constantly evaluating ways to improve our enforcement, so we can most effectively find and remove content that breaks our rules.”