In response to a dramatic surge of undocumented immigrants entering the Southwestern United States, the federal government has launched a new ad campaign targeted at highlighting the potential dangers of immigration. The campaign, which is budgeted at over $1 million, is aimed primarily at Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Ideally, the initiative will be able to dissuade people from soliciting potentially dangerous services from “coyotes” or smugglers.
What’s being referred to as the “Dangers Awareness Campaign” is expected to spread its message via the use of hundreds of billboards and roughly 6,500 pre-recorded public service announcements on local television channels and radio stations in the target nations. The campaign was announced by Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske. He made his intentions regarding the recent uptick in immigration concise and clear during a press conference on Wednesday in Mission, Texas, near the Rio Grande River.
“We have to stem the flow,” Kerlikowske told The Associated Press.
Customs and Border Protection insist that the campaign is being launched with the intent of reducing risk on all sides. Since October 2013, over 52,000 unaccompanied child immigrants have been detained crossing into America. Perhaps even more upsetting is the fact that during that same period 226 immigrants have died making the passage. For many, the gravity of this situation was driven home when the body of a Guatemalan boy was found just a mile from the Rio Grande earlier this week. He had allegedly been traveling from his home nation to Chicago to attempt to find his brother.
Each of the advertisements in the campaign will feature a sort of mini-storyline regarding immigration and then end with the words, “They are our future. Protect them.” Though the messages will vary in form, they are all expected to highlight the dangers of the smugglers, or “coyotes,” who offer to take undocumented immigrants into America, albeit for a lofty price tag. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Jaime Ruiz elaborated on this at Wednesday’s press conference.
“We want a relative that is about to send $5,000, $6,000 to a relative in El Salvador to see this message and say ‘Oh my god, they’re saying that the journey is more dangerous,'” Ruiz told the AP. “We try to counter the version of the smuggler.”