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Kids As Young As 12 Recruited By Mexican Cartels To Smuggle Drugs Across Border, Report Says

Mexican cartels are using children to smuggle drugs and weapons across the border into the United States and vice versa, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said.

Fox News reported that American children as young as 12 have been recruited by the cartels – and the problem is getting worse. In fiscal year 2018, about 36 children were arrested for narcotics-related offenses at Arizona’s points of entry. The next year that number increased to 57. There have already been 17 arrests in fiscal year 2020.

“It’s a problem, we know it’s there,” Tucson Sector Border Patrol agent Alan Regalado told Fox. “We’re trying to mitigate that issue through education and prevention.”

Regalado started the Together Educating and Mentoring Kids (TEAM Kids) program to try and stop children from getting recruited. He told Fox that after starting the program he soon realized it needed to be implemented before high school — as early as elementary school.

“We went out to local high schools and I noticed that students were already recruited at that point,” Regalado told Fox.

“There’s kids now being recruited in Phoenix, Tucson, not only for northbound activity but also southbound, where they are taking weapons from the United States into Mexico,” he added. “So, it’s not just the narcotics coming from Mexico into the United States.”

Regalado told the outlet that “These teenagers are either smuggling in vehicles, they’re smuggling on their body and in their body so it’s very dangerous.”

Three children have so far been prosecuted by the Santa Cruz County Attorney’s Office, Fox reported.

“As the county attorney I have the option of charging juveniles as adults if they’re 14 years of age or older and they commit a class two felony,” Santa Cruz County Attorney George Silva told the outlet. “Normally when they are transporting drugs for sale it’s going to be a class two felony.”

He added: “At this school I had promised the kids that if you are caught with dangerous drugs I’m sending you to prison and that’s what ended up happening to this 17 year old … this student was an honor roll student, you know he was a very good student, he wanted to go [Northern Arizona University] and he wanted to study criminal justice, so he thought ‘I can’t afford to go to college so one way of being able to pay for my college is to run dope.’”

Silva explained to the outlet that children are used to throw off law enforcement, but once kids started getting caught, the cartels use the elderly and pregnant women before switching back to children.

“[Children] do it because they think it’s cool but they also do it because of the easy money… the minimum sentence is 3.5 years and obviously prosecuting them as adults means that they would be convicted felons for the rest of their lives,” Silva told Fox.

WZTV reported that the TEAM Kids program started by Regalado lasts four weeks and “warns students that cartel recruitment may even happen through social media and video games.”

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