Last week was a good one for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
On Tuesday, agents at Pharr International Bridge in McAllen, TX, stopped a truck carrying a shipment of frozen strawberries. Upon further inspection, they discovered the trailer contained 906 pounds of methamphetamine worth an estimated $12.7 million. Two days later agents searching a car at the Falfurrias Checkpoint, 60 miles north, found 45 pounds of methamphetamine worth $1.4 million.
The biggest bust, however, occurred a day later at the Savannah, GA, seaport. There, officers searched a shipment of pineapples from Colombia, and found that the fruits were concealing over a ton of cocaine with an estimated street value of $19 million.
“This was an outstanding interception of narcotics by our CBP officers,” Savannah CBP Area Port Director Lisa Beth Brown said in a statement. “This seizure…highlights the important work our officers do each day to stop illegal activities at our borders and ports of entry.”
These drug busts highlight an important point in law enforcement’s battle against illegal narcotics — that the vast majority of seizures made are at legal points of entry between the United States and Mexico.
According to the DEA’s 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment, the “most common method employed by (Mexican drug cratels) involves transporting illicit drugs through U.S. POEs (Ports of Entry) in passenger vehicles with concealed compartments or…with legitimate goods on tractor trailers.”
The report adds that other commonly-used methods of smuggling include underground tunnels, maritime vessels, commercial cargo trains and even ultralight aircraft and drones. Cartels “also rely on traditional smuggling methods, such as the use of backpackers…on clandestine land trails to cross remote areas of the [border] into the United States.” This method becomes impractical however when attempting to smuggle the quantities of drugs seen in the seizures last week.
To smuggle that quantity of drugs directly across the border, “you would need to line up a huge number of humans and march them across the desert where their heat signature can be picked up,” Sanho Tree, Director of the Institute for Policy Studies’ Drug Policy Project, previously told ThinkProgress. “If you had a tunnel why would you risk this inefficient line of smuggling?”
President Donald Trump, however, has refused to let the reality of how drugs enter the U.S. get in the way of his desire to build a wall across the U.S./Mexico border, which would cost anywhere from $10 billion to $40 billion and would distract from the successful seizures of drugs, like the above ones described, at legal points of entry.
“You listen to politicians, in particular certain Democrats, they say [drugs] all come through the ports of entry,” Trump said in a rally in El Paso on February 15. “It’s wrong, it’s wrong. It’s just a lie. It’s all a lie.”
After the longest government shutdown in U.S. history failed to give Trump the $5.7 billion worth of wall funding requested, Trump declared a “national emergency” to circumvent getting congressional approval for the wall.
On Monday, a group of 23 former GOP senators and representatives released a letter urging Republicans to block the emergency declaration, call the move unconstitutional.