While cartels move drugs across borders, CBP only searches 18% of vehicles

As drugs cross the southern border, only about 18% of vehicles entering from Mexico are searched by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, their K-9s and X-ray equipment, according to Guadalupe Ramirez, CBP’s director of field operations. for Arizona.

The vast majority of drugs seized at the southern border are transported through ports of entry, hidden in commercial trucks and personal vehicles.

In one week in August, port-of-entry officers in the small border town of Nogales, Arizona seized more than 1.2 million fentanyl tablets.

Other contraband detection technologies are in the works for select ports of entry, including Nogales, where CBP’s search capacity will increase from 100 commercial trucks per day to 600 to 800 per day, Ramirez said.

“We had a seizure last month where they basically took the floor from a commercial trailer and they took the middle part of the floor out and they put in metal containers that had the fentanyl pills in there,” he said. he stated, referring to the Nogales ad. port of entry. “It was big – several hundred pounds of fentanyl, mostly pills but also powder.”

The amount of fentanyl seized by US border officials along the southern border since June has increased 220% in an already record year. CBP and Border Patrol agents seized 713 pounds of the deadly substance in June and 2,287 pounds in August, according to CBP statistics.

Two milligrams of fentanyl can be deadly.

Customs and Border Protection officers seized approximately 47,000 rainbow-colored fentanyl pills, 186,000 blue fentanyl pills and 6.5 pounds of methamphetamine hidden in a floor compartment of a vehicle, at the Nogales port of entry on September 3, 2022. (CBP)

CBP agents seize nearly 10 times the volume of fentanyl per year than Border Patrol, which operates between ports of entry.

The amount of fentanyl seized in this fiscal year is four times that of fiscal year 2019.

Ramirez said it’s hard to estimate how much contraband CBP officers aren’t catching.

The cartels are “prepared to take losses” with drug shipments being seized at the border, according to Ramirez.

“They’re going to send multiple shipments, and if we knock most of them down and only one comes out, it’s still profitable for them,” he said. “We are doing a fantastic job, and you see it in the increase. But I’m still worried, because you just don’t know. You don’t know what you don’t know.

“One of the things I look at is what the price is – and as the price goes up that means we’re probably catching more; if the price goes down, that means we probably won’t catch as much.

According to Derek Maltz, former director of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Special Operations Division, a pill containing fentanyl costs as little as $2 in Arizona and $120 on Indian reservations in Wyoming.

“With all the impressive work being done by CBP and law enforcement across the country to seize massive amounts of deadly drugs, it’s chilling to think about what’s going on in America,” Maltz told The Epoch Times. by e-mail, mentioning the record number of seizures of fentanyl.

“It’s a clear indication that we have a tsunami of deadly fake pills on the streets in every community across the country.”

Epoch Times Photo
Cars line up to enter the United States from Mexico through the San Ysidro port of entry in California, in this file photo. (Josh Denmark/CBP)

Fentanyl pipeline

Arizona and California are the primary gateways for drugs seized by CBP at ports of entry.

The Sinaloa Cartel is to the south of these states.

“It seems to be the commonality that it comes from Sinaloa and Sonora. They can bring the precursors through their seaports into Mexico from Asia,” Ramirez told The Epoch Times.

The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) sends its fentanyl to Texas.

In August 2019, the Mexican Navy intercepted a shipment of 25 tons of fentanyl from China bound for Culiacán, Sinaloa, the base of the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico.

Precursor chemicals to make illicit fentanyl are mostly shipped from China, but India is also joining the market and Mexico is starting to manufacture its own. Fentanyl has quickly become the leading cause of many of the 107,000 overdose deaths in the United States per year.

The chemicals are converted into fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid, in labs run by cartels.

“Drug traffickers in Mexico found that it was easier for them to make these synthetic products than to have to grow a plant – marijuana, cocaine or opium. They can set up these clandestine labs all over Sinaloa and Sonora,” Ramirez said. “Then it’s pretty much a direct route to California and Arizona.”

Over the past weekend, CBP officers at the Port of Nogales seized five shipments of drugs, including 400,000 fentanyl tablets and 152 pounds of methamphetamines, according to Port of Nogales Director Michael W. Humphries.

“Methods of concealment included the back wall of a truck cab, the side walls of a vehicle, in a pickup truck,” Humphries wrote on Twitter.

About 30,000 of the fentanyl pills were rainbow colored, he said.

Epoch Times Photo
A car passes through an inspection booth and high-tech scanners at the Port of Entry in San Ysidro, Calif., in this file photo. (Josh Denmark/CBP)

The DEA recently issued a warning about “rainbow” fentanyl after it started showing up in August.

“This trend appears to be a new method used by drug cartels to sell highly addictive and potentially deadly fentanyl designed to look like candy to children and youth,” the DEA said in an Aug. 30 statement.

“Fentanyl remains the deadliest drug facing this country. Drug poisoning is the leading killer of Americans between the ages of 18 and 45.

Many children die after taking a pill they think is a prescription pain reliever, such as OxyContin or Percocet. Others think they are taking the prescription drug Adderall.

“When these kids buy Xanax, they think, ‘Well, that’s okay. Mom and dad are getting prescribed it, what’s the deal?'” said April Babcock, who started the Facebook group “Lost Voices of Fentanyl”.

Babcock, whose son was killed by fentanyl in 2019, said a fentanyl-related death is poisoning, not an overdose.

“The term overdose means there is a safe dose to take and you have taken too much. There is no safe dose of illicit fentanyl,” she told The Epoch Times in a recent interview.

“When you go out and buy a Xanax or buy an Adderall or whatever, but you die from fentanyl, that’s a deception. These kids are deceived. And they’re poisoned to death.

“You could have a fake Percocet that contains enough fentanyl to kill 40 people. Then you might get another fake Percocet that doesn’t contain fentanyl at all.

Increase research capacity

Ramirez is eager to implement the new scanning technology.

Currently, the system is cumbersome.

“For example, with a mobile x-ray here at the Port of Nogales, we have to line up the trucks, we have to get the drivers off, put them in a safe area, and then we scan maybe six trucks at a time. And we have to take the time an officer in this truck interprets all the images before releasing the truck or sending the truck back [to secondary screening]said Ramirez.

By the end of the year, he hopes the new multi-energy X-ray system will be installed and a fully staffed operations center will be in place to quickly read the images.

“So we can just get the trucks through,” Ramirez said.

K-9s are still the superior tool for detecting drugs, he said, but they need plenty of rest, especially in the heat.

“These dogs are irreplaceable. They can pick up the smell even when someone picks up a package [of drugs] and shrink wrap it, then drop it in the fuel tank – our dogs will pick it up,” he said.

Charlotte Cuthbertson


Charlotte Cuthbertson is a senior reporter at The Epoch Times, which primarily covers border security and the opioid crisis.

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