Posted: Jan 11, 2012 6:26 PM
Updated: Jan 11, 2012 7:56 PM
A video shows the teenage driver of a truck trying to get away with 700 pounds of drugs. Officers caught him and took him to a place with more children like him. Most of them were busted for trafficking huge amounts of drugs.
"The cartels are easily influencing these kids to become involved in their operation of drugs," says Hidalgo County Juvenile Detention Center Director Israel "Buddy" Silva.
"We're dealing with a kid who's never been involved in the juvie justice system and got caught with 1,000 pounds of marijuana."
Silva says 39 children were caught trafficking drugs this past year. It's a 33 percent increase since 2010. Close to half were smuggling at least 500 to 600 pounds of marijuana.
"We had one kid, he had 1,200 pound of marijuana in his possession," says Silva.
A 12-year-old boy from Mexico was caught driving a stolen pickup with 800 pounds of marijuana. He was taken to the detention center then sent back to Mexico.
"The person who they were delivering it for, how are they going to react to this? Are they going after the families of the kids?" says Silva.
Texas Department of Public Safety numbers show the border makes up almost 10 percent of the state's population. Double that number of children are caught trafficking drugs. Six of the seven cartels are aggressively recruiting children here.
"I don't think it's going to go away anytime soon," says Silva.
Silva is hoping the stories of the children who ended up here stop other children from making the same mistake. They said yes to a no-win situation.
The Texas Department of Public Safety says the cartels come after children who lose their loads. A few months ago, two teens from Texas were found kidnapped, beaten and held for ransom. They were eventually released in a remote area along the Rio Grande.