Mexican Cartels Enlist San Diego's Latino Kids

By Valerie Tejeda 12/30/11

US-based children are often used to smuggle drugs across the border.

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Mexican drug cartels are recruiting young latinos in San Diego to smuggle drugs across the border. According to KPBS San Diego, more than 5,000 youth have been held in San Diego county jails for drug related offenses in the last two years. The cartels use children as young as 11—referred to as "The Expendables"—because they attract less suspicion. They can make up to $400 for each smuggling trip across the border. “Cartels use these juveniles, telling them, 'Nothing is going to happen to you because you're a juvenile. Here's some quick cash,'" says US Customs spokeswoman Angelica De Cima. "These kids are putting themselves at risk and they don't understand the consequences." When caught, they face punishment ranging from probation to 15 months in a juvenile camp. Legal permanent residents who are not citizens can be deported.

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix,, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.