U.S. Citizens Arrested For Smuggling Drugs
The past year has seen an increase in the number of U.S. citizens arrested while trafficking drugs through the Southern border. Both Americans and Mexicans smuggle across the border, but because of the U.S. pandemic travel sanctions, it’s easier for Americans to travel freely. Americans also draw less scrutiny from border patrol, which makes them an obvious choice for cartels trying to move drugs into the U.S.
In the years before the pandemic, twice as many Americans were arrested smuggling than Mexicans. Between October of 2020 and March of 2021, that number jumped to 7 times as many Americans arrested. Alongside the increase in American arrests, there has been an increase in smugglers trafficking drugs in their body across the border. In 2021 alone, 505 Americans were found with drugs hidden in them.
While these 505 American arrests represent a fraction of drug traffic, it completely dwarfs the 35 foreign citizens who were found body smuggling. This statistical relationship follows the same pattern as the overall arrest rate. In years previous, the U.S. and foreign citizen in-body smuggling rates were similar, but after the pandemic and travel sanctions, American smuggling leapt to a higher rate.
Alongside American citizens, commercial vehicles have been allowed to travel unhindered during the pandemic. Large trucks carrying commercial cargo are ideal trafficking vehicles. Drugs have been found in gas tanks, hidden in tires, and in the products that are being shipped.
During the October 2020-March 2021 timeframe, over 90,000 pounds of drugs have been seized at southern ports of entry. The U.S. citizens arrested for smuggling them are often selected as one-time traffickers paid based on the value of the drugs they’re hauling. Cases from Texas found that people were offered $10,000 and more to make it back into the U.S. and drop the drugs off at secret locations.
Border patrol agents acknowledge that cartels will find whatever way possible to circumvent preventative measures. Smuggling with U.S. citizens, hiding drugs in commercial vehicles, even digging tunnels under border walls if necessary. The promise of normalcy provided by vaccines has border patrol worried for the increased volume of drugs that will inevitably come across the border.