Stopping child smugglers: Border police chief does his part to keep kids out of cartels

LOS INDIOS — Anything can happen patrolling in the hot zone.

That is what Los Indios Police Chief Jose De La Rosa says.

It’s where the border communities along Military Highway parallel the Rio Grande and Mexico border.

In the hot zone on any given day, gunshots could be fired from across the river. The smuggling of weapons, narcotics and illegal immigrants happens daily.

But it’s not just adults who are the smugglers. They also are Texas youths recruited by Mexican cartels to traffic drugs across the border.

De La Rosa doesn’t like seeing young children involved in the dirty work of the cartels. And he’s determined to do something about it.

“We are so close to the border, and we want to protect our youth from anything,” De La Rosa said. “We are doing our part.”

Since the establishment of the Los Indios Police Department in 2016, De La Rosa has been organizing police community events to get to know the local youths.

“We are introducing this area to new programs,” he said. “Soon we will have a free library and programs for kids to come and participate.”

He said he wants to do what he can to prevent the youths from becoming involved in illegal activity.

“The main goal is to educate the kids from what is right and what is wrong,” De La Rosa said. “We don’t just cover Los Indios; we are starting to cover El Ranchito, La Paloma and Santa Maria.”

One of the ways he’s helping the local youths stay out of trouble is by offering them activities and hosting community events for families to enjoy.

He recently hosted a community Christmas party, a community coffee with the local law enforcement and a National Night Out.

For decades, minors have been caught trafficking for drug cartels, smuggling narcotics or people across the border for fast cash.

According to reports, minors receive anywhere from $200 to $2,000 per day for smuggling illegal immigrants or narcotics across the river and through the Texas checkpoints.

WHAT HAPPENS

In October 2011, the Texas Department of Public Safety apprehended a 12-year-old boy in a border county driving a stolen pickup truck containing more than 800 pounds of marijuana.

“Mexican Cartels have corrupted nearly an entire generation of youth living in northern Mexico and they seek to corrupt our youth as well to further their smuggling operations” said Steven C. McCraw, DPS Director.

“The Mexican cartels value Texas teenagers for their ability to serve as expendable labor in many different roles and they have unlimited resources to recruit our children.”

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO

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, authorities say.

The Mexican cartels constantly seek new ways to smuggle drugs and humans into Texas.

They use state-based gangs and the youth to support their operations on both sides of the border.

“As these dangerous organizations seek to co-opt our children to support their criminal operations, it is more important than ever that parents be aware of these risks, talk to their children and pay attention to any signs that they may have become involved in illegal activities,” McCraw said.

By The Numbers

The Texas border region represents 9.7 percent of the state’s population.

Since 2009, this region has accounted for 19.9 percent of the state’s juvenile felony drug referrals.

And 18.5 percent of the state’s juvenile felony gang referrals.

Source: Texas Department of Public Safety

Smuggling attempts involving

juveniles in the Valley

December 2017

Juvenile driver transporting five illegal immigrants arrested near Mission

October 2017

Two juveniles arrested transporting illegal immigrants near Laredo

December 2016

1,380 pounds of marijuana valued at more than $1.1 million found inside a vehicle near Los Indios. The driver, a 15-year-old Mexican national, was apprehended.

October 2011

12-year-old boy apprehended in a border county driving a stolen pickup truck containing more than 800 pounds of marijuana.

Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection/ Texas DPS