San Diego – The use of cell phones has facilitated the illegal activities of immigrant smugglers as well as the work of activists and academics to benefit immigrants.
Migrant traffickers, known as "coyotes," take advantage of mountains and other elevated locations to remotely provide instructions to immigrants who have entered the United States illegally, trying to outwit and avoid the Border Patrol.
This tactic was highlighted again when last week U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, busted a band of traffickers operating in Jacumba, located between San Diego and El Centro, California, a distinguishing feature of which was their preference for using cell phones to guide coyotes leading groups of immigrants across the border on foot.
Authorities arrested eight people making up a family organization involved in the trafficking that had its roots in the western Mexican state of Michoacan.
The traffickers alerted immigrants whom they were guiding over little-traveled routes to the movements of the Border Patrol, the ICE spokesman in San Diego, Michael Jimenez, told Efe.
The network included drivers who transported the immigrants from Jacumba to Los Angeles, a route that saved them days of dangerous travel.
Each undocumented migrant paid the traffickers about $5,000 to get them across the border, Jimenez said.
But not only traffickers have used the technology. Academics at the University of California at San Diego, or UCSD, created a smartphone application that helps immigrants traverse the hostile desert.
The app uses GPS technology and was created by UCSD professor of visual arts Ricardo Dominguez with the aim of saving lives.
The app contains information about the location of aid stations where water, clothing and blankets are stockpiled.
"There is no difference between art and activism," Dominguez told Efe, adding that cell phones form part of a "poetic system that can save lives."