Security Expert Says Cartels Could be Racially Profiling Targets

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WESLACO – A security expert says cartels are profiling their targets.

That can have serious implications for travelers who are misidentified as they make their way through Mexico, specifically through the state of Tamaulipas.

It could mean travelers are confused for their people from countries other than Mexico.

Migrants seeking asylum are the most sought after by the cartels.

It's a business opportunity and there's a general business flow.

Migrants show up in Tamaulipas, depending on the city they choose, and pay the cartel operating in the region a tax, or smuggling fee.

Art Fontes, a former FBI agent and current founder of Fontes International Solutions, says this is an operation run by the Cartel Del Noreste and the Gulf Cartel.

In return for paying the fee, the migrants get a password or 'code sign' that means they've paid and can cross.

Some migrants are circumventing the cartel and crossing without paying.

Fontes says the cartel is becoming more aggressive about collecting payments.

"Some of these people want to come in unilaterally, and they don't want to pay the fees," Fontes says.

"They want to make sure that these people are accounted for, and that they enforce that if they come in they're going to have to pay the fees to cross."

Fontes says cartel members are patrolling bus stations in cities like Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo.

"There's been incidents now where people that appear to be immigrants are being accosted upon exiting the bus, and, if they don't have a code sign, or call sign, they're kidnapped, and they have to pay the fee of somewhere between $3,000 to $5,000. If they don't pay it, they're killed."

They're looking for people whom they consider look like migrants, whatever their idea of that may be.

Fontes spoke with people who experienced this.

"I've had contacts that actually have trouble and they've asked them for a call sign when they've come in. And, these people did not have a call sign, but they acted very confident and they had the paperwork to cross the border, and they let these people go. But if you seem like you doubt yourself, and you don't have the appropriate paperwork to cross the border, you could be a victim."

It's recommended to avoid bus stations when possible.

This is not the first time cartels hunt down their targets at bus stations.

A recent study by the Mexican Safety Initiative, under UT's Strauss Center, found cartels frequently use buses and bus stations for kidnapping migrants in Reynosa. 

A travel warning remains in effect for U.S. citizens traveling to certain parts of Mexico, like the State of Tamaulipas. 

For more information watch the video above.


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