Texan law enforcement officials have said that Mexican drug cartels are intensifying drive to recruit U.S. teenagers, mostly Texan high school children, as "expendables" in their drug smuggling activities.
CNN reports that last week, Texas officers arrested a 12-year-old driving a pickup truck carrying about 800 pounds of marijuana. Last month, two youths from the Rio Grande Valley were kidnapped, and set free only after a ransom was paid by the families.
Reuters reports that Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), says several major Mexican drug gangs now have "command and control centers" in major cities in Texas to recruit U.S teenagers into their smuggling activities.
According to Steven McCraw, the drug gangs refer to their teenage recruits as "the expendables." CNN reports that Steven McCraw, the DPS director 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."
Texas officials say some of the young people the drug gangs recruit are as young as 11 years. The groups lure these children in to aiding their drug smuggling activities with the promise of "easy money."
For jobs as simple as "looking out," young Americans are paid handsomely. Steven McCraw, according to Reuters, said,
"Cartels would pay kids $50 just for them to move a vehicle from one position to another position, which allows the cartel to keep it under surveillance to see if law enforcement has it under surveillance."
Click2Houston.com tells the story of a youth Iban Baldez, a Mexican, now a 12th-grader in Houston. According to Baldez,
"All that stuff like that, every day I saw that in my country...They used to tell you, 'Hey, make this work,' and 'I'm going to give you some money,' and everybody is like, 'Oh yeah, I'm going to get some money.'"
Texan officials say they are worried about the growing trend. An initiative called "Operation Detour," run by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency is working with Texan officials to counter the recruitment activities of the drug cartels. "Operation Detour" is organizing outreaches and communicating directly with American teenagers and their parents, warning them of danger of involvement with the cartels.
The drive by the Mexican drug cartels to recruit Texan teenagers is not new. New York Times, in 2009, reported the case of a young American Rosalio Reta, who was recruited by the Zetas and trained as a hit-man. Reta and his friend Gabriel Cardona, are now serving life sentences in the U.S.
Click2Houston reports the Texas Department for Public Safety explains the renewed drive for recruitment of Texan teenagers as resulting from the need for new sources of labor.
Reports say there are signs the Mexican drug war has spilled over the border into U.S. territory. Texan officials say some of the gangs are forcing landowners in south Texas to grant use of their property as base for drug smuggling activity. According to NYDailyNews, a recent report by Texas Agriculture Commissioner claims the cartels are now seeking a distribution point for drugs in territory north of Mexico.
The Mexican drug war is an ongoing armed conflict between rival drug groups involving the Mexican government trying to control drug trafficking. The war has been going on for some time. The Mexican government has mostly been trying to control the conflict between the cartels. In spite of efforts of the Mexican government, the cartels have been growing more powerful and influential, especially since after the Colombia's Cali and Meddelin cartels went out of business in the 1990s.
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates the earnings from drug sales, now dominated by the Mexican cartels, as high as $48.4 billion annually.