U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are using a multimedia ad campaign to send out a warning to those who are attempting to migrate to the United States from Central America across the southwestern border, particularly parents who send their children thinking they will have amnesty upon arriving on American soil.
The campaign, which the agency calls its "Dangers Awareness Campaign" will be targeted in various areas of Central America with a series of public service messages that bluntly tell people that it's not worth it to try to navigate their way into the United States because it is far too dangerous for themselves and their children.
The federal government is spending $1 million on the program, the Associated Press reports, which will include about 6,500 public service announcements to run on the radio and television in in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala through Sept. 7. The campaign will also run in U.S. cities with large Central American populations, including Houston, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., New York and Miami.
CBP will also place billboards placed throughout several Central American countries warning parents that it is too risky to send their children north in hopes of quickly receiving citizenship.
"I thought it would be easy for my son to get papers in the north," reads one billboard in Spanish, while showing an image of a child alone in the desert. "I was wrong. Our childen are our future. Protect them."
According to information posted on its website, the U.S. Border Patrol has found more than 220 people dead in areas along the southwest border this year; 34 of the deaths were water-related. At least 52,000 children have been taken into custody attempting to cross the border, according to government figures.
But there are many more dangers facing those who try to sneak into the country illegally through the southwest.
"Families need to understand that the journey north has become much more treacherous and there are no 'permisos' for those crossing the border illegally," CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said in a statement released Thursday. "Children, especially, are easy prey for coyotes and transnational criminal organizations and they can be subjected to robbery, violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking or forced labor."
The new campaign comes in the midst of protests in southern California communities against migrants being moved from an overwhelmed processing facility in Texas to one not far from the California-Mexico border earlier this week.