America’s Heroin Epidemic Fueled By Flood Of Illegal Immigrants

Ethan Barton | Investigative Reporter

Violent drug cartels help “every single illegal alien” cross the border between the U.S. and Mexico for a fee, and often the price is carrying a backpack full of heroin, according to a Border Patrol union president.

“Every single illegal alien that comes into the country goes through the hands of a drug cartel,” even if the immigrant doesn’t want the help, said Hector Garza. He is president of the Laredo, Texas, chapter of the National Border Patrol Council.

Garza was briefly in the national spotlight earlier this year when Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump held a campaign event near the U.S. border with Mexico to highlight his demand for an end to illegal immigration. Garza’s chapter pulled out of hosting Donald Trump in Laredo just hours before the Republican presidential front-runner’s visit.

Most heroin is smuggled into the U.S. by illegal immigrants crossing the border with help from Mexican drug cartels, according to Department of Homeland Security officials. The cartels are also responsible for most of the violence in the border region.

“When we talk about securing the border, it’s not just about stopping illegal immigration,” Garza said. “It’s also about stopping dangerous drugs from entering our communities and our schools and getting into the hands of kids and affecting family members.”

“Most of the drugs coming into the country are not coming into the ports of entry,” he said. “Coming across the border is the easiest way. You cannot imagine how easy it is to cross the border. You would be shocked at how open our borders are down here.”

Mexican drug cartels put heroin into a backpack and help immigrants illegally cross the border.

“The price for being led across is carrying one of those backpacks,” Homeland Security Investigations Assistant Special Agent in Charge Adam Parks told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

In other words, curbing illegal immigration by securing the border would restrict the major method cartels use to smuggle heroin — a drug that’s causing an epidemic of suffering and criminal violence in the U.S. Deaths from the opiate nearly quadrupled from 2002 to 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Numerous federal agencies and task forces are responsible for catching heroin dealers, but ultimately, if the border is unsecured, the drug will still make its way in.

Violence in the region would also decrease by securing the border.

“Much of the illegal activity and associated violence on the southwest border is interrelated, given the well-documented link between drug trafficking and human smuggling/trafficking organizations,” DHS’s Southern Border Joint Task Force — West Director Robert L. Harris told the Committee on House Oversight and Government Reform Wednesday.

“This lawlessness is a direct result of the drug cartels operating in Mexico, evolving into massive criminal organizations,” said committee chairman Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah. An attack on a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter in June “made clear the cartels have no reservations about expanding the scope of their violence on the American side of the border.”

The ranking Democrat on the oversight panel agreed.

“Drug cartel violence in Mexico threatens both American and Mexican citizens and their families on both sides of the border,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland. “Combating the violence and stabilizing this region needs to be a top priority for both countries.”

But Customs and Border Protection needs more resources to complete that task, according to the Border Patrol union.

“Without the manpower on the border, we just can’t physically secure the border,” National Border Patrol Council president Brandon Judd told the committee.

In fact, the border is only about 40 percent secure, Judd said, though Garza told TheDCNF that may be overestimated.

Technology and infrastructure upgrades are essential to secure the border, Garza said.

“We have to make sure we have the most up-to-date camera systems,” Garza said. “There are spots on the border where we don’t have radio reception.”

The border needs more towers and with cameras that conceal which direction they point, he said. Immigrants exploit obvious gaps in cameras’ visibility.

Garza also said there are regions that the Border Patrol can’t access for environmental policy reasons that consequently leave them to the control of the cartels.

Meanwhile, President Obama has claimed that the border is more secure than it has been in decades. But Garza says the reported number of illegal border crossings is inaccurate.

“We do know that the agency has a long history of what we call ‘cooking the books,'” Garza said. “They manipulate statistics, depending on their agenda.”

Homeland Security subtracts the number of illegal immigrants caught from the estimated number of immigrants that evaded authorities, Garza said. Those numbers, however, aren’t comparable, since there’s no way to tell if those apprehended shouldn’t be additions to the estimated escapees.

“We need our support from the administration and we need the support from the American public,” Garza said.

TOMORROW: The Fight Against Heroin Is Lost In Bureaucratic Fog

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