More American Citizens Cited For Smuggling Illegal Drugs Into U.S. Since Beginning of Coronavirus Pandemic

This undated photo provided by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows seized drug bundles containing 132 pounds of methamphetamine on display from Feb. 25, 2021, at the Laredo port of entry. The drugs were concealed in a vehicle driven by 23-year-old U.S. citizen traveling from Mexico. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, an increasing number of U.S. citizens have been apprehended while they have tried to smuggle illegal drugs at the Southwest border. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection via AP)

Law enforcement officials and drug trafficking experts say lose border rules are driving the rise in U.S. citizens involved in borderland drug busts. More and more American citizens are being apprehended for trying to smuggle illegal drugs across the border into the U.S. This has been the case amid travel restrictions at the border with Mexico and its closure to nonessential traffic thus limiting the number of foreign visitors entering the U.S. by land.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows U.S. citizens were apprehended nearly seven times more often than Mexican citizens between October 2020 and March 31, 2021. In the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years, Americans were caught roughly twice as often as Mexicans. Customs and Border Protection says narcotics seizures along the U.S.-Mexico border have increased slightly in the 2021 fiscal year. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has said Mexican traffickers’ ability to move drugs into the country had stayed “largely intact.”

Michael Corbett, who worked at the Drug Enforcement Administration for 30 years and is now a narcotics expert witness, says one can conclude from these findings that U.S. citizens are scrutinized less. This increase comes about because U.S. citizens and commercial trucks are exempt from the restrictions at U.S. land borders.

Not only has drugs brought in by U.S. citizens in vehicles increased, but drugs on their persons have also increased. January 2021 to April 2021 saw 505 Americans arrested for hiding drugs on their bodies compared to 35 arrested from other countries.

Abundio Rene Cantu, a lawyer representing 23-year-old Mike Mendoza who was caught and arrested for smuggling illegal drugs while driving a pick-up truck with 132 pounds of meth stashed in the tires, says, “But generally speaking … people sometimes may find themselves in a bind. And so, they get caught up with somebody that knows somebody from a Mexican organization, and they offer the money to get involved into this type of activity.” Cantu concludes that the partial closing of the border lends itself to such activity.

The U.S. is the world’s largest consumer of illegal drugs.

– Ella Breedlove

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