US immigration officials warn people against responding to seemingly innocent offers to drive from Mexico to America.
16 April 2012
Mexican drug cartels exploiting US visa holders
As Mexican drug cartels continue to find new ways to successfully smuggle drugs into America, drug cartels are using US visa holders to unknowingly drive large amounts of narcotics across the border.
An increasing number of arrested drug traffickers who apparently had no knowledge of their illicit cargo have raised concern that US visa and passport holders are being exploited by Mexican drug cartels.
Replying to an inconspicuous advertisement in Tijuana's newspapers, unsuspecting people are lured into a trap which promises easy money or even a job, if they simply drive a car into the United States, ostensibly to deliver 'important papers'.
If their journeys are successful, the innocent drivers are then told the job is unavailable, paid a small sum of money and persuaded to leave the car.
"They are hiring these people for supposedly legal work as couriers, in sales, vehicle delivery and currency exchange houses," said Alfredo Arenas of the State Preventative Police in Mexico.
"When they cross over the border, [the cars] are loaded with drugs."
The cartels' latest trick in the ongoing drug war was discovered by US immigration officials in 2011 when drivers of several apprehended cars had no idea what the car contained.
"In one case, a man we caught told us his wife insisted that he search the car before he crossed the border," said a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer. "But he didn't search the gas tank and that's where the smugglers had hidden the narcotics."
Officials are attempting to combat the ads by placing messages of their own in the same publications:
"Warning! Drug traffickers are advertising jobs for drivers to cross to the United States," reads one of the advertisements.
"Don't be a victim of the smugglers' trap."
The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.