Saturday, October 15, 2011
Mexican cartels are recruiting Texas high school students to support their drug, human, currency and weapon smuggling operations on both sides of the Texas/Mexico border, the Texas Department of Public Safety has said
The department issued a news release warning parents that their children are at risk to Mexican cartels and have been since 2009. Several incidents involving U.S. teens and Mexican drug cartels recently prompted the statement, Steven McCraw, the department's director, said. "In '09 we started seeing that happening with the bridge cases, when the cartels started getting our teenage students to move drugs across the bridge," McCraw said. "Texas teenagers provide unique compatibility to the cartels. They're U.S. citizens, they speak Spanish, they're able to operate on both sides of the border and they're expendable labor." Because they're juveniles, it's not likely that they'll be charged by the federal prosecutors, he said. Recently, Texas officers caught a 12-year-old boy in a border county driving a stolen pickup truck containing more than 800 pounds of marijuana. Also, two other juveniles from the Rio Grande Valley were lured into Mexico and kidnapped, eventually being released after a ransom was paid by the families, according to McCraw. "There's some indication that they were subjected to the temptations to working with the gangs and cartels," he said. Teens are sometimes offered as little as $50 to act as drivers for the cartels or the local gangs who support them, McCraw said. The Texas border region represents 9.7% of the state's population, yet has 19.2% of the state's juvenile felony drug referrals and 21.8% of the state's juvenile felony gang referrals, according to the release.