Developers claim app helps immigrants cross border illegally

Developers claim app helps immigrants cross border illegally

EL PASO, Texas - A new app claims it will help immigrants cross the border illegally. 

The "Bienvenidos" app claims to be the world's first community-based navigation app for immigration, and it claims to outsmart any border wall from the palm of your hand.

In a video posted on its website, the app developers claim it will use crowd sourced data from users, and alert immigrants of border patrol agents, hidden cameras, drones. The website also states the app will use dropped pins to show immigrants the best routes and even alert them of dangerous river crossings, heat waves and wild animals.

"This is not a new concept," said Victor Manjarrez, with UTEP's Center for Law & Human Behavior.

Manjarrez is the former deputy chief for border patrol in Tucson. He tells ABC-7 immigrants often use comic books and guides to help them cross the border. 

"They were using comic books to kind of say, these are the things you need to pack on your trip. These are the things you need to worry about," Manjarrez said. 

ABC-7 asked the app's creators if the app was legitimate, but they declined to be interviewed. ABC-7 also asked if there were safeguards in place and how they ensure the safety of those who use the app. On the app's website, the developers claim to make immigration safer.

"They're coming here because they don't have anything, which would include a phone," Manjarrez said.

"Manjarrez believes 'coyotes,' or human smugglers, could use the app to offer guarantees to those trying to cross the border and profit from those guarantees.

"It's almost putting money into their pocketbook. I could imagine them saying, I can guarantee your travel cell, and I could charge you more because I can make the guarantee, because I have something on my phone that could tell me, where deployments are," Manjarrez said, claiming what they're doing is clearly illegal.

If it is legitimate, it's unclear who would use it and what their motive is.

"You could make an argument about aiding and abetting," Manjarrez said, "I don't think they've looked at the potential consequences. How that could be exploited by a bad person."

The app claims to launch in 2018.

ABC-7 reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In an emailed statement, they stated:

"U.S. Customs and Border Protection maintains a robust posture regarding the enforcement of our immigration laws along the nation’s borders and coastal areas. We continue to promote safe, legal and orderly migration via United States established ports of entry."

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