The teens, some as young as 13 years old, are contacted by online recruiters offering hundreds of dollars per migrant they drive across the southwest border.
The smugglers convince the teen drivers they are unlikely to face legal consequences for smuggling the migrants, mainly Mexican adults, into the U.S. because they are minors.
Around one in four drivers caught smuggling migrants last year near Sunland Park, New Mexico, an area of high recruitment due to its proximity to the border, were children, most U.S. citizens living locally.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has also arrested teen drivers from communities from Texas and California. They argue the growing trend of underage smugglers has resulted in an 'increase in erratic driving by inexperienced drivers, often observed exceeding posted speed limits, and driving against oncoming traffic'.