Tuesday 16 January 2024

Turkish smugglers using SOCIAL MEDIA to aid and abet illegal immigrants crossing southern border

 Human smugglers from Turkey have been using social media to aid and abet illegal immigrants from all over the world in their attempt to enter the U.S. unlawfully.

The Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF) disclosed this development following a review of social media posts. It found that the smugglers are using social media platforms like Telegram and TikTok. The said smugglers are reportedly advertising services that include travel arrangements, visas and transportation directly to the U.S.-Mexico border for nationals originating from Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

One such advertisement on Telegram promises a "guaranteed pass" for $10,000, which include a flight from Istanbul to Cancun, a Mexican visa, entrance in Cancun, hotel accommodation, taxi service and "delivery" to the Tijuana border.

The post also mentions routes for those unable to obtain a Mexico visa. Instead of Mexico, it suggests alternative travel through Nicaragua.

Videos and messages on these Telegram channels that advertise to migrants feature successful border crossers thanking one smuggler named "Volkan." One migrant called the Turk the "king man" for his help in one clip.

Another video shows a man appearing to walk across the border, claiming that Volkan can always get them into the United States. "When it looks like no one can let you through the doors, you always leave the door open for everybody," the migrant said, pertaining to the smuggler.

Another smuggler named "Burak" appears in videos on these Telegram channels. The DCNF reached out to Burak, who was skeptical of the outlet and said its questions sounded like those of a "police officer." The smuggler communicated in Turkish, which the DCNF had translated.

According to Burak, he helps people from across the globe enter the U.S. in two ways. He either helps would-be migrants obtain Mexican visas or facilitates travel through Nicaragua or El Salvador.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C. did not respond to a request for comment sent by the DCNF.

Migrant smugglers pose a threat to national security

According to numbers from the federal government, there has been a record number of illegal border crossers in recent years. Over 2.2 million encounters were reported in fiscal year 2022, while more than two million encounters were reported in fiscal year 2023.

The number of migrants from so-called "special interest" countries has increased by almost 600 to 25,627 in fiscal year 2022 compared to fiscal year 2021, as per internal Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data obtained by the DCNF. Migrants from "special interest" countries are identified as potential national security risks, given their potential connections to terrorism.  

A Border Patrol official who spoke to the DCNF on condition of anonymity said smugglers earn significantly more from these "special interest aliens" because of fees that are based on country of origin. The official highlighted the sharp increase in migrants coming from Turkey. From about 1,300 encounters in fiscal year 2021, this has jumped to more than 15,400 in fiscal year 2023.

But two U.S. intelligence officials who also requested anonymity said most immigrants pay around $10,000 for smuggling to countries bordering the U.S. – mirroring the Telegram advertisement. This is because illegals know they can claim asylum upon arrival and be released into the mainland U.S. without consequence.

Encrypted apps such as Telegram pose challenges for federal investigators, the DCNF said. The two intelligence officials also pointed out that the messaging app's cooperation with law enforcement is limited to terrorism cases. This, they added, allows smugglers to recruit new clients openly.

"Since its creation, Telegram has actively moderated harmful content on our platform," the app said in response to the DCNF's inquiry. Remi Vaughn, spokesperson for the app, added that the platform's moderators use a combination of proactive monitoring and user reports to remove content that violates its terms of service.

Previously, CBP sent a memo detailing a smuggling route involving Chinese migrants obtaining Mexican visas in Istanbul. Moreover, a CBP spokesperson recently told the DCNF about a group posing as travel agencies in the African nation of Senegal. These groups facilitate migrant travel to America's southern border via the European Union.

"They sell complete packages to connect them to a smuggling organization that will then facilitate their movement up to the border," the CBP spokesperson said.

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