The Texas Department of Public Safety issued a warning on Friday about drug cartels from Mexico seeking younger and younger recruits in Texas high school to “support their drug, human, currency and weapon smuggling operations on both sides of the Texas/Mexico border.”
A number of incidents in the past thirty day period caused DPS to issue the notice, however officials say the threat started in 2009.
“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.
“Parents should talk to their children and explain how the cartels seek to exploit Texas teenagers and the risks in dealing with these ruthless organizations, especially those parents who live along the Texas/Mexico border,” the news release said.
Elisabeth Mandala left a Texas public high school for Mexico last May where she wound up beaten to death in a pick up truck along with two men carrying fake identification. It’s believed the violent drug cartels recruited Mandala to smuggle illegal immigrants across the border.
“Sometimes this may be delivering drugs. It may be crossing drugs over from Mexico or involvement in some of the other violent activities,” Steen said.
Just past week in a border county officers caught a 12-year-old boy driving a stolen pick up truck with more than 800 pounds of marijuana.
Last month a pair of Texas teenagers were lured to Mexico where they were kidnapped, beaten, redeemed and released in a distant region on the Rio Grande River.
“There’s some indication that they were subjected to the temptations to working with the gangs and cartels,” McCraw said.
The former gang task force director for the city of Houston, Kim Ogg, said:
“Recruiting is easy for such a vulnerable population”
He suspects the cartels are recruiting through gangs.
“Some see it (the gang) as their family. Some are attracted to the money, drugs, guns, women, and others are attracted because they have family members in gangs and it seems normal,” said Ogg.
“Teens are sometimes offered as little as $50 to act as drivers for the cartels or the local gangs who support them”
“We want to warn parents for the things to look out for so their child doesn’t get involved in this,” he said. “It’s subtle; it’s not always obvious. It’s not like a narco will show up at your doorstep with a wad of cash. It could be friends of friends at school influencing their child.”
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.
“We’re going to continue to warn parents. We have an obligation to be honest with the public, regardless of how it looks,” McCraw said.
“We’re not going to overinflate the threat, but we’re going to be honest. Al Qaeda has nothing on the savagery of these cartels,” he said.
“They don’t care what happens to the kids, we do. They’re our most precious asset in Texas.”
According to authorities more than 25 juveniles have been arrested for drug trafficking in one Texas border county alone within the past year.