By Anita Snow, Associated Press
(AP) — In his demands that Congress set aside $5.7 billion for a border wall, President Donald Trump has insisted that a new physical barrier would stop drugs entering the U.S. from Mexico.
“Our southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs, including meth, heroin, cocaine and fentanyl. Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 percent of which floods across from our southern border,” Trump said in a speech last week about U.S.-Mexico border security.
But U.S. statistics, analysts and ongoing testimony at the New York City trial of drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman show that most hard drugs entering the U.S. from Mexico come through land border crossings staffed by agents, not open sections of the border.
“We’ve been gradually beefing up physical barriers along the border for 20 years and have not seen any demonstrable difference in drug flows,” said David Shirk, a professor who specializes in U.S.-Mexico relations and border politics. “Drugs come through many ways that are not stopped by a wall, whether it’s by boat, submersible, tunnel, catapult, drone.”
Statistics suggest more bulkier marijuana shipments are smuggled between ports of entry than at them. The Border Patrol seized nearly 440,000 pounds (200,000 kilograms) of pot between crossings during the 11 months, compared with 280,000 pounds (127,000 kilograms) confiscated at crossings.
“Why bother trekking through the desert with a small amount of the drugs if it’s so much easier and faster to drive it through a port of entry?” asked Adam Isacson, director of defense oversight for the nonprofit Washington Office on Latin America.
Alejandro Hope, a former Mexican intelligence official who is now an independent security analyst, says a new wall as a counter-drug strategy is “basically a pointless exercise.”
Since 1990, U.S. officials have discovered at least 230 tunnels, most of them running from Mexico into California and Arizona. It’s believed smugglers have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to build the more sophisticated ones with ventilation and lighting.
Testimony during Guzman’s trial made it clear that physical barriers did little to prevent the shipment of his Sinaloa Cartel’s drugs to the U.S.
Jurors have heard how the cartel has hidden narcotics in shipments that included cans of jalapeno peppers, and a former cartel member detailed an operation in which trains took cocaine stuffed inside compartments of tankers filled with cooking oil from Mexico to New Jersey.
Cartels prefer planes, trains, automobiles, and boats/ships to transport the vast majority of their drugs into the U.S. at busy ports of entry. Other more unique methods are drones, submarines, and tunnels. Minimal amounts of drugs enter the U.S. by people crossing the border on foot.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci