American teenagers are being recruited by Mexican drug cartels to carry drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border, Texas law enforcement officials say.
Over the past 10 years, 476 juveniles have been caught with drugs at a port of entry in El Paso County and 302 of them were U.S. citizens, according to the El Paso County attorney's office.
It’s a scary trend authorities are trying to stop.
“They’re being presented with this in the high schools now as a viable option for making money, ” said Border Patrol Agent David Zapp.
Authorities say cartel members, who are blamed for thousands of deaths in Mexico, will pay American teens several hundred dollars to carry a backpack full of marijuana across the border.
“They’ll tell them, 'look you’re a juvenile, you’re not going to jail, nothing’s going to happen to you,' ” said El Paso County Sheriff Deputy Manny Marquez.
But Marquez warns most teens don’t understand the reality and risks of helping the ruthless cartels.
“They can suffer, anywhere -- from just getting beat, to death, ” Marquez said.
To help spread that message, school districts along the border are now inviting law enforcement officers into their classrooms. Students as young as 11 watch graphic videos that show how cartel members burn the bodies of people who fail to deliver the drugs.
“We’re very blunt, ” Marquez added.
El Paso County attorney Jo Anne Bernal says the court system can be tough, too.
“The legal consequences are things that can face them and effect them the rest of their lives,” Bernal said.
“We’re talking about [being denied] jobs, college applications, scholarships.”
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