Smugglers Guide Illegal Immigrants With Cellphones

John Moore/Getty Images A member of the Arizona National Guard on duty at the border. So-called coyotes are using technology to help avoid patrols.

NOGALES, Ariz. — “A group of migrants was hustling north through the southern Arizona desert the other night when one of their cellphones vibrated with a text message. “Watch out,” it warned. “Things are hot up ahead. Take cover in the bushes.”

Some border crossers are getting help from smugglers who track patrols from afar and send texts on how to avoid them.

The message, signaling the presence of the Border Patrol, was sent by a smuggler watching the group’s progress through binoculars from a hillside on the Mexican side of the border, members of the group said later. It was part of what border officials and immigrant activists say is an emerging trend in illegal border crossing — the use of what is being called the cybercoyote.

“I’ve crossed eight times, and this is the first time they’ve directed me with my cellphone,” said Sandra Silva, 30, a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, who was on her way to Phoenix. “It’s like a guide through the desert.”

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