September 29, 2011

Facts: Border Wars Going Underground

  • Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon started his ‘war on drugs’ after taking office in 2006, 23,000 people have been killed in violence caused by illegal drug and migrant-smuggling gangs battling for power.

  • The city of Juarez has one of the highest murder rates in the world, with over 3000 killed in 2010.

  • CBP regularly apprehends so-called ‘imposters’, people who attempt to use false documents or who do not own the documents with which they attempt to pass through customs.

  • Contrary to popular belief, a large number of those considered illegal in the U.S did not enter by crossing the border illegally. As many as 45% of illegal immigrants in the U.S entered with a legal visa, such as a tourist visa, and decided not to return to their country of origin.

  • To prevent contraband and undocumented immigrants from entering the U.S., CBP officers must be able to enter confined spaces such as tunnels and storm drains. They undergo special confined space entry training to be able to work in those spaces - which often come with severely dangerous and possibly lethal conditions such as toxic air quality, engulfment hazards and physical dangers.

  • To prevent drug smuggling and detect concealed illegal immigrants inside vehicles, the U.S CBP employs over 800 canine teams.

  • A dog has more than 220 million olfactory receptors in its nose, while humans have only 5 million, making dogs more sensitive to smell than humans.

  • Beyond the common ports of entry, in order to prevent smugglers and illegal immigrants from crossing the border, Border Patrol agents are supported by Huey helicopters which point the ground agents in the right direction. The Huey helicopter is the most widely used military helicopter, and was used in the Vietnam War for medical evacuations, air assaults, and command and control.

  • As many as 230 cities in the U.S. have Mexican drug cartels operating in them. They control most of the heroin, marijuana, and meth markets and about 90 percent of the cocaine market in the U.S.

  • Mexican drug tunnels are sometimes surprisingly sophisticated and can include electricity and cart systems. With their extensive capital, drug lords can afford to hire experienced engineers to help build their tunnels.

  • Drug trafficking across the border is a federal offense. A first offense penalty in the U.S. for smuggling over 5kg of cocaine or over 1000kg of marijuana is at least 10 years, up to life in prison. A second offense will lead to at least 20 years in prison. After two or more prior violations, the penalty is life imprisonment.

  • To bypass CBP, drug smugglers have begun using increasingly creative methods to reach their goals. They have been found to use catapults to launch drugs over the border, using unassuming suspects to smuggle the drugs such as the elderly and children, and even bribing customs agents.

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