Mexican smugglers using Uber to bring people to the U.S. border

There is an Uber service in Mexico so, naturally, it has become part of the human smuggling operation bringing people from Central America to the U.S. border. From Reuters:

On June 10, five vehicles carrying 34 Central American migrants were apprehended while traveling together between the northern Mexican states of Zacatecas and Coahuila, said Segismundo Doguin, a Coahuila state official at the National Migration Institute (INM).

Four of the vehicles were linked to the Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] platform, Doguin said, but it was unclear whether the human smugglers had hailed the drivers using the Uber app. The drivers said they weren’t the owners of the cars but worked as Uber chauffeurs, he said.

The five vehicles picked up the 34 passengers in Matehuala and were on their way to Reynosa which is the town across the border from McAllen, Texas. The total journey would have been 342 miles.

Uber says it is cooperating with authorities and adds that only three of the drivers were in their database, one of whom had previously been kicked out. The two remaining drivers were removed after hearing about this incident.

Doguin, the official from the National Migration Institute, says this is not the first time Uber has been used for smuggling. He tells Reuters, “About two months ago, seven other vehicles were detected in the area of San Luis Potosi state … and were also in the Uber system.”

The number of central American immigrants crossing the U.S. border has surged again this spring. Last month the Washington Post reported:

This spring, the numbers appear to be rising again. The figures on Central Americans detained in Mexico are above 2014 levels. The Sacred Heart Catholic Church shelter in McAllen, which opened in June 2014 amid the surge and has since taken in more than 35,000 people, has seen days this month with more than 200 migrant arrivals, something that has never previously happened. Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, said that the Border Patrol sends migrants when it has run out of space in centers where the detainees are held before proceeding to immigration court.

Many of these immigrants will wind up staying for years, if not permanently, as NPR reported last month:

Two weeks ago, the agents’ union president, Brandon Judd, testified at a congressional hearing.

“What happens is if you are arrested in the United States and you ask for any sort of asylum, what we do is we will process you, and we will walk you right out our front door, give you a pat on the back and say, ‘Welcome to the United States.’ And they’re good to go,” he said.

The Border Patrol ends up releasing the vast majority of family members it apprehends because U.S. court rulings restrict its ability to detain them.

NPR notes the current backlog of cases is roughly half-a-million with a two-year wait not the average.