U.S. teens recruited to drive migrants from Mexican border | U.S. & World |


 Seventeen-year-old Santi sits in his car outside shops in Sunland Park, New Mexico, watching a pulsing blue dot on his mobile telephone.

Human smugglers have hired him to pick up migrants here, less than a mile from the Mexican border, and take them to nearby El Paso, Texas.

His shiny red mobile phone pings every 15 seconds. He and the migrants share locations, as a contact on the U.S. side messages instructions.

The high schooler with a high-fade haircut is among a growing number of U.S. teenagers in communities from Texas to California recruited to transport migrants crossing the Southwest border, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Around one in four drivers caught smuggling migrants last year in the Sunland Park-Santa Teresa area were children, most U.S. citizens living locally, according to U.S. Border Patrol, which began recording the juvenile driver data in fiscal year 2021.