SAN DIEGO — Federal agents in charge of monitoring drug smuggling along the U.S.-Mexico border say more and more teenagers are getting involved in the smuggling trade - and may even be at risk for recruitment.
According to federal agents, many suspected teen smugglers have been caught this year at the San Ysidro border trying to cross into the U.S. with drugs secretly taped to their bodies.
Last year, a record 190 teens — ages 18 and under— were caught smuggling drugs along the San Diego County-Mexico border, according to federal investigators.
"It shocks me and saddens me that kids are getting involved. It doesn't shock me that cartels will use whatever method they need," said Jose Garcia, a deputy special agent for ICE Homeland Security Investigations.
The payment is minimal for smuggling, too. Teens are paid on average between $75 and $300, Garcia said. Cartel recruiters tell the kids that because they are minors, they won't get in serious trouble.
However, Garcia says that selling point is misleading.
"The truth is if they are arrested with narcotics, especially hard narcotics, they're going to have two felonies on their record," Garcia said.