West African migrants have been pouring over the border by the thousands now that social media spread the word about a lesser-known path through Nicaragua, the Associated Press reported.
Mauritanians are making their way to the United States along a route that goes through Turkey, Columbia, and El Salvador before they are put on a bus by smugglers in Managua, Nicaragua to travel to the southern border.
Nicaragua’s relaxed entry requirements allow foreign nationals to buy a cheap visa without providing proof of continued onward travel.
With social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and WhatsApp promoting the Nicaragua route, the number of illegals showing up at the southern border skyrocketed.
According to data from Customs and Border Protection, between March and June, over 8,500 Mauritanian migrants crossed the border illegally, up from only 1,000 from November 2022 to February 2023.
The new arrivals already outnumber the estimated 8,000 Mauritanians in the United States.
But unlike the influx of refugees who fled Mauritania in the 1990s after the Arab-led government expelled black citizens, the latest surge of migrants from the West African nation is not due to any coup, natural disaster, or economic collapse. Instead, the surge reveals the power social media has in reshaping patterns of migration.
One video on TikTok promotes the route by showing an image of a Nicaraguan visa and the caption “The American dream is still available.” Another video posted by a West African migrant encourages others to “Arrive in the USA via Nicaragua.”
Travel agents looking to cash in on the little-used travel route are promoting the journey on social media by providing flight packages that follow the same route.
Before the new route started gaining attention on social media, Mauritanians seeking to enter the United States would fly to Brazil and make the trek through the jungles of the Darien Gap.