Mexican cartels using VPNs to help migrants cross the border

Illegal immigration sign

Over the years, we have come across some strange ways that people have been using VPNs, but this story is one of the most unusual we have seen.

According to the Mexican Daily Post, cartels who are involved in getting Mexicans and other people from Latin America across the border into the USA have begun issuing people with VPNs in order to help them get across the border.

How can a VPN help migrants into the USA?

The role that VPNs can play in getting into the USA is actually far more straightforward than you might think.

Essentially, if you want to have an asylum interview with the US Department of Homeland Security to plead your case for being allowed into the USA legally, you can apply for one. It is formally known as a CBP One application and is done entirely through a smartphone app.

But you have to be at the border in north Mexico to apply, and the main method that the Department for Homeland Security uses to check that you are in the right place is to analyse the IP address you use when applying.

Those readers familiar with VPNs will already be way ahead of me on this one. The cartels have worked out that by enabling migrants to request asylum appointments from further away, they can increase the attraction of paying them to help them get to the border.

If you already have an asylum application interview scheduled, why wouldn’t you want to get to the border?

So, to enable migrants to do this, the Mexican cartels have begun selling VPN services to prospective immigrants. They can then apply for an asylum interview from much further away than is officially allowed and then pay the cartels to help them travel to the border to attend in person.

How do we know Mexican cartels are using VPNs in this way?

The evidence of this innovative yet highly damaging use of VPNs was recently given to US Congress’ House Oversight Committee by Republican Congressman Andy Biggs from Arizona.

As Biggs explained to the Committee, “The cartels now sell VPN services to migrants, allowing them to pre-register for an asylum appointment in the United States and bypass the geolocation system, even before they arrive in northern Mexico. These continue to be pull factors or incentives to enter this country illegally.”

The suggestion that this use of VPNs alone is driving the flow of migrants from Latin America to the US border in Mexico is perhaps a bit of a stretch. There are many other pull factors that carry considerably more weight than the fact that you can apply for an interview early.

But it is hard to deny that the guarantee of an asylum interview would be one more incentive, among many, to take on the perilous journey to the border and to line the pockets of the Mexican cartels in order to help ensure that you get there.

In true Republican partisan style, Biggs also said in his testimony to the House Oversight Committee that, “The [CBP One] app hurts Americans by welcoming any migrant with a smartphone into the United States and helps cartels solicit more customers to make the perilous journey to our border. No wonder immigration numbers are on the rise again.”

We aren’t familiar enough with the hugely complex issues around the US migration issue on its southern border to comment on the role that the CBP One app plays in the problems there, but we would certainly challenge the view that VPNs are to blame for the problem.

Evading Geo-Blocking is a multi-faceted feature

One of the features of a premium VPN is its ability to help get around geo-blocking. This is most commonly used by online streaming services and retail websites to force users onto geographically restricted sites that determine what content they can access and what prices they have to pay for it.

It often means many people have to pay the same price to access inferior streaming content or pay more than someone in a different country to purchase the same items. It is also a common tool used to censor online content and control the information that citizens can access online.

By offering users the ability to bypass this geo-blocking, VPNs are playing a crucial role in ensuring everyone has access to a free and open internet, and autocrats and corporations cannot control what we can and cannot do online.

The question, in this case, is whether the US Government should discriminate against potential asylum seekers based on their geographic location in this way and, indeed, whether they should run an app of this nature at all.

Here at VPNCompare, we are certainly not comfortable with the idea of Mexican cartels using VPNs to boost their people trafficking trade.

We would urge any potential migrants to the US who might read this article to think long and hard about the many dangers of making that journey to the US border and putting your lives in the hands of these criminal gangs.

But VPN’s ability to unblock geo-restricted content is not the problem here. And we would urge all prospective migrants to use a VPN to read up on the truth around seeking asylum in the USA and the realities of life for them if they are successful before risking everything in pursuit of their American dream.

Author: David Spencer

Cyber-security & Technology Reporter, David, monitors everything going on in the privacy world. Fighting for a less restricted internet as a member of the VPNCompare team for over 7 years.

Away from writing, he enjoys reading and politics. He is currently learning Mandarin too... slowly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *