US-Mexico Border

Pastor Battles Human Smugglers on Facebook

Gustavo Banda runs a shelter in a church in Tijuana, Mexico

A group of Mexican migrants being transported by Coyotes (people smugglers) to a drop off point in the desert before beginning the treacherous trek through the desert to cross the border into the USA, near the town of Sasabe. Sasabe is the departure point for as many as 1000 migrants a day, most from Mexico, who cross the border illegally into the USA by going around, over, and through the fence between the two countries.
Christopher Morris/Corbis via Getty Images

Gustavo Banda spends one to three hours every day on Facebook trying to warn migrants desperate to enter the United States not to waste their money on human smugglers advertising their services on the social media platform.

Banda is a pastor who runs a shelter in a church in Tijuana, Mexico, where migrants end up after being deported from the U.S. Many of them gave their life savings to human smugglers, known as coyotes, whom they met on Facebook and its encrypted messaging app WhatsApp, and who promised them safe passage to America. When people arrive at his shelter, they’ve often spent all the money they have, and many have experienced rape, violence and further extortion along the way.

“I’m telling everyone that this is a complete lie,” he said, gesturing at a Facebook group in which migrants and coyotes appear to be interacting with one another on the laptop in front of him. “If they need help trying to cross, they should get a lawyer and do it the legal way and that I can help them.”

For more on this story, go to NBC News.

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