SAN DIEGO, CA – Next time someone tells you there’s no border crisis, show them this.
The Otay Mesa Port of Entry lies in between San Diego California and Tijuana Mexico and serves as an entry/exit port for the country.
Legally, billions of dollars worth of commercial goods come through the port every year.
However, illegally, drug traffickers try to use this route to bring drugs into the United States from Mexico, which is what federal officials say happened when they stopped a tractor-trailer on Thursday morning of last week and seized 300 pounds of illegal narcotics.
Customs and Border Protection stopped a semi which was legally carrying recycled cardboard.
Instead of just sending the truck through the entry port, federal officers sent it to an area to be scanned and examined. When this was conducted, CBP observed what they classified was an anomaly inside the cab of the truck.
Upon manual inspection, federal officers lifted the sleeper compartment and located two black duffel bags which were concealed inside. A search of those bags yielded 64 cellophane-wrapped packages, and inside those were 59 packages which contained methamphetamine, and the remaining 5 had fentanyl.
The heroin weighed 286 pounds, the fentanyl weighed 26 pounds.
For context, in the State of Florida, anything over 4 grams is considered trafficking because of how small the doses are from those drugs.
The driver was not identified, other than to say he is 36 years old and a Mexican citizen.
He was arrested and turned over to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for processing. Pete Flores, Director of Field Operations for CBP in San Diego said in a statement:
“Even in the midst of a global pandemic, we continue to see attempts to move hard narcotics across the border and into US communities. CBP officers at all of our nation’s legal border crossings remain on the job and vigilant during these unprecedented times.”
The DEA lists fentanyl as extremely dangerous and is widely considered to be 50 times more potent than heroin. A very small amount can kill whoever touches or ingests the chemical in some way.
Drug traffickers are utilizing the drug to produce a bigger high for their customers when mixing it in with the heroin. In some areas in Florida, it is rare to find real heroin anymore, typically, law enforcement finds either straight fentanyl or mainly fentanyl with a little amount of heroin.
Acting Administrator for the DEA, Chuck Rosenberg, recently produced a video in which he describes the danger associated with fentanyl.
“Fentanyl is deadly. Exposure to an amount equivalent to a few grains of sand can kill you. You can be in grave danger even if you unintentionally come into contact with fentanyl.
In a recent article from Law Enforcement Today, the month of June saw a 40% increase in the arrests of illegal aliens and drugs coming into the country from Mexico.
Acting Customs and Border Patrol Chief mark Morgan said they are concerned with the growing numbers.
Even more concerning is the amount of people who are coming into the country who may be carrying COVID-19. Customs and Border Protection also announced recently that officers, in addition to this article, have seized in total, 43,000 pounds of illegal drugs at the ports of entry along the California and Mexico border.
They estimate the street value for the drugs to be around $92 million.
CBP revealed they have seized 34,685 pounds of marijuana, 7,661 pounds of methamphetamine, 635 pounds of cocaine, 166 pounds of heroin, and 165 pounds of fentanyl.
People who have been caught bringing drugs into the country have done so by concealing them in secret compartments in their vehicles located in various places, like their gas tank, trunks, seats, and the quarter panels.
They also have concealed them on their person utilizing ‘body suits’ and, in some cases, placed them inside their bodies by various means.
We suspected the media wasn’t telling America about what’s really happening at the border. We were right.
Editor note: At the bottom of the article is the exclusive video that our team at Law Enforcement Today created in partnership with our friends at Inforce.
Special thanks to Art Del Cueto for giving a true look at what it takes to defend America… and to Inforce for helping keeping those who serve and protect safe.
Charles Dickens may have said it best in the opening paragraph of his novel A Tale of Two Cities.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
While it was set historically against the French Revolution and contrasted London and Paris, it strikes amazingly true when used to contrast what we are experiencing right here in America, right now.
If Dickens were alive today, he could change the title to A Tale of Two Americas.
The amazing success that we are seeing as a nation under the current administration versus the all-out assault we are facing on our southern border.
Recently, a tour was conducted at that very location. The tour guide was Art Del Cueto, National Vice President of the Border Patrol Council. A segment of this tour and the conversation with our guide can be seen below.
Here is a little about Art’s career.
Art has been with Border Patrol since 2003. His first duty station was Casa Grande, Arizona, where he helped in the effort to establish a new substation at Three Points, Arizona.
Throughout most of his career, he patrolled on the Tohono O’odham reservation, assisting on numerous drug and smuggling cases.
He responds to over 90% of all significant incidents within the Tucson Sector including shootings, accidents, and agent assaults. As an agent who is fluent in Spanish, he routinely leads the questioning of apprehended subjects.
Art has also worked for the National Border Patrol Council for the last ten years. He currently serves as President of Local 2544. Prior to working for Border Patrol, Art worked for a maximum-security state prison in Tucson. Art has lived most of his life in Arizona.
On this particular tour, Agent Del Cueto takes us back even further than his CBP days.
“I grew up in a small town, a border town called Douglas, Arizona. I grew up seeing border patrol do their job,” he said. “I’ve always seen border patrol out here, I’ve always seen law enforcement, and I have always gravitated towards that.”
Art was born in Mexico. His father was an immigrant who came to the US legally.
“My dad always taught us to be grateful to be in this country,” Del Cueto said. “I think that was the foundation that helped me get to where I am constantly at.”
“I grew up on the border, I was born on the border, I was raised on the border, I’ve worked on the border,” he continues. “I know what is happening out here.”
So, what exactly are the types of things he is referring to when he says he knows what is happening?
This week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued the following press release.
The headline reads: Recently Convicted Child Sex Offender Arrested by Border Patrol Agents.
U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested a previously deported child sex offender near Sasabe Thursday afternoon.
Tucson Sector agents patrolling the desert apprehended 22-year-old Alexander Morales-Domingo, a Guatemalan national, around 6 p.m.
Records checks revealed Morales-Domingo was convicted of lewd or lascivious behavior/lewd or lascivious battery – sexual act with a person 12-15 years of age in Collier County, Florida, December 6, 2019. He was sentenced to five years’ probation and ordered removed from the country December 26, 2019.
As a previously deported sex offender, Morales-Domingo faces federal prosecution for criminal immigration violations.
All persons apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol undergo criminal history checks using biometrics to ensure illegal aliens with criminal histories are positively identified.
So, in a matter of 60 days, an illegal immigrant was convicted of sexual misconduct of a minor in Florida, was removed from the country and was subsequently arrested 2,310 miles away, back in the US.
This case is just one of a thousand stories we could tell about the struggle at our border to keep our citizenry safe.
But it strikes at the heart of what Del Cueto sees every day.
Continuing his tour, he said that they have better structure where he is than a lot of other areas have.
Pointing to the 15’ tall fence and the razor wire, he said that the wire was added when President Trump stepped up and dedicated resources to better secure our border.
Del Cueto said that a common occurrence was seeing groups who would come up to the fence and weld small pieces of metal to the south side of the fence and make a ladder. Then they would just repel down.
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“What I want people to understand is, it’s not just a bunch of dumb farmers over there (pointing across the border towards Mexico) doing this,” said the veteran agent. “They are very organized. It is a very organized criminal organization.”
He pointed to one of the major flaws in our current immigration system.
You can be a convicted criminal in your own country, guilty of heinous crimes, but if you have never been to the U.S. and committed a crime, you come here, CBP will run you through the system and your record shows clean, not knowing what crimes you may have committed in your own country or others.
“We have people renting their kids out in Mexico, because they know that exposes a loophole in immigration,” stated a frustrated Del Cueto. “You cannot detain these children for more than 20 days. Then the child goes back to Mexico, where they will rent them out again.”
“This area has been notorious for drugs coming into the country for as long as I can remember.”
He called these smugglers (both humans and drugs) extremely sophisticated, pointing to the types of technology that they use.
Two examples: they have night vision, and they set up communications via towers and even underground telephone trunk cables for long range capabilities.
Describing the depths of the problem at our border, he recounted one particular experience.
“I specifically can tell you, that I have seen the same guy, a Mexican national, during the last administration (Barack Obama), deported 17 times.”
Based on the latest figures we could find, the average cost of detention for one individual was $5,633 and the average cost of deportation was $10,854. Using those numbers, it cost U.S. taxpayers $280,000. That is just one guy.
In Fiscal Year 2016, ICE and CBP spent $3.2 billion to identify, arrest, detain and deport undocumented and criminal aliens.
Stepping aside from the human aspect of the southern border, Del Cueto pointed to another problem. Sewage pipes on the Mexican side of the border burst. It was spilling raw human sewage at a rate of up to 40,000 gallons a day at some points.
The ranchers in the area rely on well water for their crops and livestock. The sewage was seeping into the ground and contaminating wells.
How was that addressed? Chlorine tablets. Someone threw chlorine tablets into 40,000 gallons of raw sewage.
LET carried a story dedicated to this issue, which you can read here.
Now back to the people.
“When you are patrolling in the day, your vision is a lot better,” Del Cueto told us. “At night, it is more difficult, and you count on equipment to help you patrol this area.”
Continuing, he said:
“I can’t call for back up and say I am at 5th street and 6th Avenue. You’re in the middle of nowhere.”
Hearing the inflection in Del Cueto’s voice at this point helps you understand just how dire the situation often is for the agents tasked with securing our borders.
The area he works holds the record for number of illegal immigrants apprehended in one year.
“The largest group I ever encountered alone was 80 people,” he said. “You have to wait for backup. You have to wait for transport.”
One of the issues he touched on was the difficulty that CBP has in getting agents.
“One of the issues that we fell into was that border patrol agents received a pay cut, no other individuals in CBP did.”
He pointed at the remote locations and the long hours as other deterrents to the recruiting effort.
Del Cueto is not shy in addressing what it will take.
“We need more politicians that are behind us. We need more media that is willing to tell the story. And, we need more managers in our own agency that are willing to be leaders and lead from the front.”
Winding down the tour and the conversation, Del Cueto gave us insight as to why he fights this battle and why it is important.
“I know America is not perfect. I don’t think anyone is going to tell you it is. But it is better than anything else, and we need to preserve that. This is the only country that has individuals constantly wanting to ‘break in’ you could say, not be detected and remain here.
If we open our borders, if we lower our vetting process, then is America going to be as great as it has always been, or are we diminishing it?”
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