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Texas Teens Increasingly Recruited for Use by Mexican Drug Cartels

For those teenagers living close to the Mexican border, it can be very dangerous recruiting territory. The Department of Public Safety is warning Texan parents that Mexican drug cartels are actively recruiting teenagers. Tela Mange, a DPS spokesperson, said that these cartels are using these teenagers to act as smugglers and in some cases, assassins.

A report in the Mexidata shows conflicting reports as not all law enforcement members believe this active recruitment is taking place. There is not dispute that there have been a few cases of teens being lured into the cartel and used for its purposes. It is the active recruitment that tends to generate objections.

This report did argue there is a solid record of teen recruiting in at least two border cities – Laredo and El Paso – where the tendency for teen recruits to handle smuggling duties remains fairly constant.

For more than a decade, teens from El Paso – both rich and poor – have worked for Mexican cartels as mules. Howard Campbell, a University of Texas at El Paso professor and author of “Drug War Zone,” told ISN Security Watch that he recalled a 1991 Texas Monthly magazine feature about the children of El Paso’s affluent citizens who would travel into Mexico and return with a load of drugs to drop off at some point north of the border.

According to Campbell, Mexican smugglers have recruited El Paso teens from Avenida Juarez for years. This activity has slowed in the past two years due to increased violence in Juarez, considered Mexico’s most violent city in 2009.

Police have arrested 204 minors in the first quarter of 2009 and some 80 percent of robbers and assailants in Juarez are between the ages of 16 and 18. a report published by the Ciudad Juarez Youth Assessment Organization in late 2008 suggested that some 40 percent of adolescents in Juarez do not attend school and are unemployed.

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