Border Patrol agents in the Yuma and El Paso Sectors seized methamphetamine and cocaine at interior immigration checkpoints recently re-opened after the downturn in illegal border crossings. Officials closed checkpoints in these sectors and others earlier this year to redirect resources to the border.
Yuma Sector Border Patrol agents assigned to the Interstate 8 Immigration Checkpoint on August 21 observed a gold Ford Explorer approaching for inspection. During the initial interview, a K-9 alerted to an odor it is trained to detect, according to information obtained from Yuma Sector Border Patrol officials. The agents referred the driver to a secondary inspection station.
A search revealed 55 packages of methamphetamine hidden inside the gas tank of the 2001 Explorer. Agents determined the weight of the drugs to be approximately 59 pounds and estimated the street value at more than $135,000, officials stated.
The following day, Welton Station agents conducted a traffic stop on a 2002 Dodge Durango as it traveled through Dome Valley, northeast of Yuma, officials reported. During an immigration interview, the agents discovered the U.S. citizen driver was allegedly smuggling four illegal immigrants from Mexico. Officials say the Dome Valley route is an area where smugglers attempt to move their “cargo” in order to avoid the Interstate 8 checkpoint.
El Paso Sector Border Patrol agents assigned to the Texas Highway 62/180 Immigration Checkpoint on August 21, observed a 2005 Ford Expedition approaching for inspection. Agents report the driver of the vehicle, 32-year-old Raul Cortez of Odessa, Texas, appeared to be “excessively nervous” during the immigration interview. A K-9 carried out a “non-intrusive sniff” of the vehicle and alerted to an odor he is trained to detect, officials stated.
The agent referred the driver to a secondary inspection station where a search of the vehicle uncovered two plastic-wrapped bundles of drugs hidden in the rear quarter panels of the SUV. The agents determined the bundles contained nearly six pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of more than $190,000, officials reported.
“In Fiscal Year 2018, El Paso Sector seized more than $10 million in cocaine. This seizure is just one example of the type of illicit activity being disrupted by Border Patrol agents at our immigration checkpoints,”, Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez said in a written statement. “I’m extremely proud of our canine teams deployed throughout the sector who each day contribute to the safety and security of our border communities.”
Yuma Sector and El Paso Sector Border Patrol leaders were forced to close many of these interior checkpoints earlier this year Breitbart Texas reported. The officials closed the checkpoints as agents in these two sectors saw massive increases in the apprehension of mostly Central American migrant families and unaccompanied minors. The closed points allowed sector leaders to divert more resources to the border in order to process, feed, house, and transport the migrant families and minors.
Local law enforcement called the closed checkpoints a “green light to cartels,” Breitbart Texas reported in May.
“It’s a green light for the cartels when border checkpoints are down,” Otero County Sheriff David Black, 56, told the New York Post in a May interview. The sheriff said the closure of the checkpoints has forced him to reallocate his own department’s resources to fill in the gap.
In July, Las Cruces, New Mexico, Police Chief Patrick Gallagher blamed the closed checkpoints on an increase in violent crime and murders in his community.
“The increase in violence in Las Cruces and the increase in shooting incidents, we are concerned by it,” Chief Gallagher explained. “There were five homicides in June alone. Four of the five of them were narcotics related.”
Doña Ana County Sheriff Kim Stewart said he believes the closed checkpoints are “sending out the message that there’s a little bit more freedom to move about … to be emboldened.”
“With asylum seekers coming to the border and throwing up their hands to every Border Patrol agent they can see, the cartel is a very active observer,” the sheriff continued. “They’re opportunists.”
By the end of July, Border Patrol officials began to re-open many of the closed checkpoints as the numbers of migrant families crossing the border illegally began to decrease.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that the decrease in migrant border crossings is in large part connected to the Trump Administration’s agreements with Mexico to increase immigration enforcement in that country. He cautioned senators that the current slowdown could be temporary and Congress must act to fix the loopholes in immigration and asylum laws that are being exploited by cartels and other human smugglers.
In June, Breitbart Texas reported the Mexican government began deploying members of its newly formed National Guard to deter the flow of Central American migrants and being deporting up to 2,500 migrants daily. Shortly after this, Mexican National Guard troops were spotted near the Texas border stopping migrant families from crossing into the El Paso area.