EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – El Paso remains the epicenter of irregular migration into the United States, with as many or more individuals trying to evade apprehension than those turning themselves in to seek asylum.
That means smugglers are recruiting U.S. residents willing to drive migrants who make it over the border wall to stash houses and pick up points for transportation to the country’s interior. Those approached often are teenagers tempted with easy money and given advice that could lead to tragedies – as it has in the past.
That’s the nightmare scenario Scott Good wants to spare El Paso parents from experiencing with their children.
“They are told not to stop for law enforcement, to drive fast, to drive erratically, drive on the wrong side of the road. When all these things happen, accidents happen,” said Good, the new U.S. Border Patrol El Paso Sector chief agent. “It really is scary. If you are a parent, please have those tough conversations with your children to not get involved.”
The teens and young adults hired by cartel middlemen often don’t realize what they’re driving the migrants into, he said. They’re not dropping them off at a nonprofit that’ll give them a box lunch, kind words of welcome and free bus tickets; they’re taking them to criminals who will pack them into cramped quarters and often abuse them.
“The smugglers are taking advantage of these vulnerable populations. They’re extorting them, they’re kidnapping them, they’re using them for sex trafficking. These are terrible things. […] It’s really unfortunate, it’s scary to think that somebody’s child can be convinced to drive a loaded vehicle into one of those situations,” Good said.
The worst that could happen is for those young people to go to the hospital. The next worst thing is they make it through, they do get paid and then they’re part of a transnational criminal organization.
“It’s not just a one-time thing. A lot of times kids think, ‘Just this time and I will make a bunch of money.’ But once TCOs have a hold of you, it’s really hard to get out. You’re playing with your life and it’s not going to go well. It’s going to end badly,” he said.
Good came to El Paso last month after leading the Border Patrol’s Havre Sector, which includes Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The 22-year agency veteran also has worked in Laredo, California, North Dakota, Arizona and Washington, D.C. headquarters.
Good has been everything from a patrol agent to a humanitarian counselor to the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The Kentucky native describes himself as a man of faith.
The new chief admits he found it surprising that the men and women of the Border Patrol in El Paso remain confident and “in such good spirits” while being at the center of the current, prolonged surge.
He credits his predecessors, including former El Paso Sector Patrol Chief Gloria Chavez with forging partnerships with local law enforcement and the community to manage any potential crisis.
“I walked into a great situation where previous chiefs had set up these great (partnerships) with the community and I plan to continue that,” he said of coordination with the City of El Paso and El Paso County, both of which have stepped up to assist migrants released on parole. “I’ve yet to work in a place where everybody says, ‘Hey, we have enough staff and resources.’ But everybody (in El Paso) comes together.”
And while the city and county help the Border Patrol manage lawful migrant flows, law enforcement agencies from the Texas Department of Public Safety to the El Paso Police Department and El Paso County Sheriff’s Office help them fight smugglers.
“We have busted 165 stash houses just this fiscal year (from Oct. 1 to date), with 2,400 people held there. Those are crazy numbers. Recently in Socorro we’ve taken down a sex trafficking ring,” he said. “When we talk about (what’s) going through, people might think migrant farmer, but that’s typically not the case.”