How Selfies Are Fueling the Rise of Illegal Migrants

Governor Greg Abbott is busing hundreds of illegal commuters to New York, but those hundreds will grow into thousands for one reason only: selfies.

Smartphone technology is a massive driver of migration, sending the message to Central and South America of “I wish you were here”.

People in Guatemala, Honduras and Venezuela use their phones to connect to chat rooms and social networks that serve as a real-time intelligence network.

Migrant families exit the bus at Port Authority after their long walk.
Reuters/Jeenah Moon

The network reports upstream conditions, border crossings, violence, smuggling fees and most importantly the availability of free things like clothing, food and shelter for those still downstream. Intelligence networks do not only tell with text. They show. Often with photographs and videos of real people from bus stations, in buses and in shelters with their documents, checks, documents and new clothes.

It works like any flashmob. It is always the phones that indicate and show where the deportation and flight zones are, so that the crowds arriving behind can divert elsewhere. It’s always the phones that tell and show where to find welcome mats and freebies, often exactly where and how to get them.

I know this because I have met and interviewed thousands of immigrants bound for the United States on their way to the United States border, and at the border, who have repeatedly told me their strong dependence on the telephone network.

Rarely have I encountered a supposedly impoverished migrant bound for the United States without a modern cell phone fully connected to the internet and social media. They were there again, I noticed, in news photos of immigrants in homeless shelters in New York.

They invited me to their discussion groups where new policies and border crossing openings are openly reported and discussed. They showed me the selfie content that their friends, neighbors and countrymen created documenting their chance to be freed in America with documents given to them by Border Patrol. In early June, I was in Del Rio, Texas, watching dozens of immigrants fresh off Rio Grande charter buses to cities across America create selfie videos of themselves smiling with the thumbs up next to buses.

A Cuban I saw taking a selfie of himself standing next to the Greyhound bus he was about to board for Georgia told me it was one of many he had sent to his brother still in Havana. That brother would soon be on his way now too, he said.

If immigrants show up at the same homeless shelters and nonprofit storefronts in New York where free goods and assistance are handed out, you can be sure that all of that information comes back to the Texas border and beyond. , influencing decisions to head to the Big Apple on Abbott buses.

Migrants take a selfie
Commuters use their cellphones to communicate and share updates on their new life.
Georgette Roberts
A woman takes a selfie after illegally crossing the US-Mexico border in Yuma, Arizona in July.
A woman takes a selfie after illegally crossing the US-Mexico border in Yuma, Arizona in July.
AFP via Getty Images

If knowledge is power and a picture is worth a thousand words, no bugle call has more influence on the decisions and actions of migrants than the video selfies freed from mobile phones. This is what sparked and sustained the greatest mass migration crisis in US history, when Biden’s policies turned into chat rooms that offered ground truth amid the smoke, fog and mirrors.

When Vice President Kamala Harris, during a state visit to Guatemala last June, pleaded with immigrants: “Don’t come! Don’t come. If you come to our border you will be turned away,” the traveling immigrants simply checked their phones and saw the selfies of their friends, neighbors and relatives entering and confidently stepped forward in even greater numbers.

When DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told CBS News in a March 2021 interview that parents shouldn’t send their children across the border alone because the trip was dangerous and the border was closed, the selfies leaked. showing quite the opposite. These showed how the Americans provided every conceivable means of material support to every detained minor who crossed alone.

The phones then reported how Americans were tracing relatives and providing free government airfare to reunite them in the city of their choice.

migrants in the port authority
Biden’s policies turned them into text chats that shared the migrant transition experience.

The video selfies showing happy reunions of children with parents inside the United States, including thousands in the New York area alone. It was too much to resist, which undoubtedly prompted many of the record 255,584 trips of unaccompanied minors apprehended since Biden’s inauguration.

Know that this is how things really work there.

That’s what came to mind when I read that New York recently donated money to charity and rolled out the red carpet for a group of migrants, including black backpackers identical and new and new clothes.

Trust that everyone in Latin America was watching – on their cell phones.

They come next.

Todd Bensman is a senior national security researcher at Center for immigration studies.