Notes from the front: Border Patrol confiscating record amount of narcotics at southern border

Despite being overwhelmed and understaffed, maligned by partisan detractors — even repudiated by some at the top of the very government they loyally serve — agents continue to perform hazardous drug interaction duties to protect Americans' health, security and lives.

Updated: October 6, 2021 - 11:14pm

As 11 Republican governors gathered for a summit Wednesday in Mission, Texas to press for action against the surge in drug smuggling across the southern border, Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol Sectors continue to report record amounts of drug confiscations along the southern border.

These reports from the frontlines, highlighted below, afford a window into the narcotics interdiction successes that agents (and their canine companions) continue to achieve under hazardous conditions, despite being routinely maligned by partisan detractors — and even repudiated by some at the top of the very U.S. government they loyally and valiantly serve.

At the Eagle Pass Port of Entry in Texas last week, Customs and Border Protection agents were alerted by a canine to a 2010 Freightliner tractor hauling an empty box trailer arriving from Mexico. Using a non-intrusive imaging system, agents found 1,221 pounds of alleged methamphetamine hidden inside the walls of the trailer, with an estimated street value of $24,426,968.

"Although anti-terrorism is our primary mission, CBP officers continue to maintain their vigilance to ensure commercial entries are safe and free of contraband, as this narcotics seizure illustrates," Port Director Paul Del Rincon, Eagle Pass Port of Entry, said.

At the Pharr International Bridge Cargo Facility in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, agents recently intercepted $1,233,000 in alleged cocaine and fentanyl in just two incidents involving tractor trailers being driven across from Mexico.

"CBP officers intercepted these loads of cocaine and fentanyl thanks to great teamwork and the utilization of all available tools and resources," Port Director Carlos Rodriguez, Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas Port of Entry said in a statement. "It is important to remember how lethal fentanyl is, and our officers exercise extreme care and utilize personal protective equipment when they encounter any load of narcotics for that reason."

In Laredo, Texas, officers seized narcotics in two enforcement actions that totaled over $1,105,140 in street value.

"Throughout the pandemic, the dedicated employees of CBP have continued to fulfill the agency's border security role," Port Director Alberto Flores, Laredo Port of Entry, said in a statement. "Enforcement operations such as these protect the American people, safeguard our borders, and advance our national security priorities."

In one encounter, agents found the drugs were hidden in a commercial truck manifesting tortilla pressing machines traveling from Mexico. In another, the drugs were hidden inside of a Ford Transit 350. Both were discovered using a canine and non-intrusive imaging system inspection.

In a typical week at El Paso area ports of entry, agents seized over 83 pounds of cocaine, more than seven pounds of fentanyl, over 73 pounds of methamphetamine, 107 pounds of marijuana, and arrested 25 fugitives.

Last month, at the Bridge of the Americas Border Crossing, agents selected a vehicle driven by a 30-year-old male U.S. citizen for inspection and found nearly 28 pounds of cocaine hidden in the cargo area. The previous day, agents encountered another U.S. citizen who attempted to smuggle over six pounds of methamphetamine and seven pounds of fentanyl concealed inside of his vehicle. 

At the Paso Del Norte Border Crossing, they intercepted over 57 pounds of methamphetamine from a 24-year-old male U.S. citizen. On the same day, agents at the Bridge of the Americas intercepted over 55 pounds of cocaine brought in by a 36-year-old female U.S. citizen. 

Also at the bridge, a canine identified a vehicle driven by a 48-year-old male lawful permanent resident who brought in more than 100 pounds of marijuana and nine pounds of methamphetamine.

In addition to the narcotics interceptions, officers from across the El Paso ports of entry arrested 25 fugitives from justice wanted for escape, probation violation, tampering with government records, larceny, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, dangerous drugs, and kidnapping.

All subjects were arrested by CBP officers and turned over to local and federal authorities.

"Our CBP officers continue to secure our borders and safeguard our communities by stopping these dangerous drugs from coming into our county, and by working closely with law enforcement agencies to bring fugitives to justice," El Paso Director of Field Operations Hector A. Mancha, said in a statement. 

In the southern California El Centro Sector, agents arrested a U.S. citizen accused of smuggling liquid methamphetamine hidden inside of a fuel tank, which was detected by a K-9 member of the team, a German Shepherd. 

In another incident, agents arrested another U.S. citizen accused of smuggling methamphetamine. A canine found a hidden compartment in the rear floorboard of the suspect's vehicle concealing 14 packages (38 pounds) of a white powdery substance, which tested positive for cocaine. It had an estimated value of more than $600,000.

A similar operation was conducted by the K-9 detection team on another vehicle, which also hid drugs inside of a compartment under the floorboard. This one included 41 packages of a white crystal-like substance wrapped in cellophane, which tested positive for methamphetamine. Totaling just over 78 pounds, the methamphetamine had an estimated value of $215,627.

In New Orleans Sector, a K-9 unit working with the Southern Mississippi Metro Enforcement Team, arrested two Honduran nationals and seized six kilos of narcotics worth $170,000. The Hondurans were traveling along a major drug corridor of I-10.

Instead of driving northeast, they were caught heading westbound on I-10 in Ocean Springs, Miss. A records check revealed the registered owner of the 2005 Ford F150 had ties to a narcotics smuggling ring operating out of the Rio Grande Valley Sector in Texas.

The drugs were discovered under the rear passenger seat in a large plastic bag containing fifty packages of methamphetamine, cocaine, and fentanyl weighing 6 kilograms.

The FBI took over prosecution of the case, and the Hondurans were held at the Harrison County Jail.

"Every county is a border county," Jason Schneider, New Orleans Sector chief patrol agent, said in a statement. "But by working with state, local and Federal partners we were able to bust a transnational criminal organization from The Rio Grande Valley in the Texas borderlands over 750 miles away."