Mexican drug cartels are being accused of deliberately spreading misinformation online to cause chaos at the El Paso border bridge.
According to Lieutenant Chris Olivarez, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety, the cartels are attempting to distract authorities from their smuggling operations by flooding the border.
The rush of 1,000 migrants via Mexico over the weekend was reportedly prompted by a Facebook post that claimed some would be allowed to cross the Paso del Norte international bridge without an appointment.
Posts on WhatsApp, Facebook, and TikTok assured migrants that those with children would be allowed to cross for “Migrants Day”.
A popular post reportedly circulating on WhatsApp and ending up on a “CBP ONE” group that shares information on border-crossing applications read [in Spanish]: ‘Two days ago I went through the Paso de Norte gate and the CBP agent told me that because many people were applying, starting tomorrow – Sunday – they would let people come through without an appointment.
As a result of the misinformation, migrants arriving to cross the northern border into Texas on Sunday were repelled with gas as border control became overwhelmed.
The situation is becoming increasingly dangerous for Border Patrol as migrants move north away from conflict in their home countries, according to National Border Patrol Council Vice President Job Anfinsen, who spoke to Olivarez.
Most of the migrants are believed to have been from Venezuela, a country hampered by inflation, high unemployment rates, and fallout from Covid.
The International Organization for Migration and the UN Refugee Agency urged international bodies to pledge support for migrants from Venezuela, with nearly 7.2mn having left in recent years.
Many migrants criticized the 1,000 who attempted to cross the bridge over the weekend, with one writing on Facebook that those who published the false information have “no conscience or feelings.”
Facebook has previously been criticized for struggling to identify and remove content created by cartels from the site.
The US saw a drop in illegal border crossings towards the end of 2022, according to data from US Customs and Border Protections.
The Biden Administration has recently ramped up efforts to stop the border crisis, including generally denying asylum to migrants who travel through another country to appear at the border.
Despite this, conflicting reports suggest Mexican cartels continue to wrestle with the authorities, causing havoc at the border to ease smuggling operations and profiting from the indentured servitude of migrants who cannot immediately afford to pay for safe transit.