Department of Homeland Security officials are gathering information on the migrant caravan moving through Mexico to the U.S. border via paid undercover informants and the monitoring of group text messages, NBC News reports.
The migrants use WhatsApp message groups to coordinate their journey, according to the report. DHS officials have joined these groups to monitor the caravan’s size and activity, combining the information with that of paid informants and DHS officials working with the Mexican government to prepare for the migrants’ arrival.
The caravan consists of roughly 4,000 migrants, mostly from crime-ridden Honduras, seeking a new life in the U.S. or Mexico. Many are families with young children.
While President Donald Trump has portrayed the caravan as a threatening group of terrorists and gang members ahead of the midterms—even sending over 5,000 troops to secure the border and threatening to block those seeking asylum outside official points of entry—there have been no reports of violence erupting from the caravan.
John Cohen, former acting undersecretary of intelligence for DHS, told NBC News that while monitoring messages and paying informants is not illegal, it’s a questionable use of resources.
“Those resources have to come from some place. They are not being devoted to thwarting terrorist threats, mass shootings, mailed fentanyl coming into the country or cyberattacks,” he told NBC News. “I find it hard to believe that the highest risk facing this nation comes from this caravan.”
According to a DHS spokesperson, “it would be malpractice for the United States to be ignorant about the migrants—including many criminals—attempting to enter our country.”
“We have an obligation to ensure we know who is crossing our borders to protect against threats to the Homeland and any indication to the contrary is misinformed,” the spokesperson told NBC News.