Drug Enforcement of the US Borders and Counternarcotics Strategies Research Paper

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Drug enforcement of the U.S. borders and Counternarcotics strategies

The much-fabled border between the United States and Mexico represents an awesome border dividing two large countries -- but how effective is it? With drugs entering the country with alarming success, many experts ask how this trend can be stopped. While their goals typically revolve around decreasing the amount of drugs entering through this border -- most often into the U.S. states of California, Arizona and Texas -- some people ask if there are other measures that can be taken in order to combat this plague.

Predating the Age of Discovery, the United States-Mexico border was inhabited by many different Native American tribes, who had lived in the region for centuries. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, following the U.S.-Mexico war (1846-1847), created a definite border between the two nations. In 1904, the first border patrol was established as a means of preventing Asian workers from entering the United States through its southern border. In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) becomes effective, resulting in exoduses to the border region. It had been promoted as a means of stimulating trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

(PBS 1)

In 1996, The Clinton Administrated touted its success of lowering crime in the border region during the presidential campaign of that year. His increase in funding of border patrol, the FBI reported, decreased crime 30% in San Diego, CA; 5% in Nogales, Ariz.; 14% in El Paso, Texas and 20% in Brownsville, Texas. These numbers, however, are disputed by some. In 1998, Bill Clinton and Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, for the first time, pledged their nations to a joint strategy for combating drug trafficking.

The United States-Mexico border is one of the most porous borders in the world. In Fiscal Year 2000, for example, 293 million people, 89 million cars, 4.5 million trucks, and 572,583 rail cars entered the United States from Mexico. Amidst commercial and pedestrian traffic -- crucial to the commerce of the United States -- there is a myriad of opportunities for drug trafficking rings to smuggle their goods into the U.S. The drugs are hidden in all sorts of simple and surprisingly complex ways, such as compartments of cars and trucks, and the bodies and baggage of persons on foot. (2 DEA) Drug traffickers employ, also, boats and ships to store the drugs closer to the border. According to some experts on the drug trade, only 10 or 15% of the volume smuggled gets seized. The federal drug policy targets everyone who uses drugs, everyone who sells drugs, and everyone who looks the other way. (3 Altschuler)

Along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, illicit drugs are smuggled at record levels into the United States, making Mexican-based drug traffickers the preeminent poly-drug trafficking organizations in the world. The social effects of this phenomenon are off-putting, with staggering amounts of drugs, violent crime, and the corruption of Mexican officials all exacting their toll. As the largest intermediate point of South American cocaine headed for the United States, 65% reaches U.S. cities by way of the U.S.-Mexico border.

In the year 2000, public servants confiscated 17,660 kilograms of cocaine, 619 kilograms of heroin, 1,645 kilograms of methamphetamine, and 998,180 kilograms of marijuana at the border. After being shipped from South America to the West Coast of Mexico -- as well as the Yucatan peninsula -- cocaine is then trucked into the United States. Quite usually it is hidden amongst produce and other perishable items. Compared with the past, Mexican black tar heroin gets smuggled into the United States in larger quantities, as multi-kilogram seizures become common. Heroin from South America is flown on commercial airlines or private aircraft from South America to Mexico. From Mexico to the United States, it is transported by commercial airline or by private or commercial automobile. According to the DEA Tijuana Resident Office, 13 methamphetamine labs were seized in Baja, California in Fiscal Year 2001. This can be compared to three seizures in the previous year. MDMA, also, is smuggled into Mexico for eventual shipment into the United States. (4 Dorn)

During the 1980's, the lion's share of cocaine entering the United States passed through the Caribbean and South Florida. Owing to widened enforcement and interdictions in that region, drug trafficking organizations moved to Mexico in order to continue their operations. For that reason, DEA and relevant Federal agencies increased enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In the late 1980's and 1990's, in order to move cocaine from South America to Mexico, drug trafficking organizations utilized commercial aircraft -- usually 727's and 737's. In the present day, alternatively, maritime vessels are the medium of choice among traffickers. Fishing vessels are used by Colombian trafficking organizations. The cocaine is usually shipped to the West Coast of Mexico. The shipments are then consolidated and taken across the border on land. "Smugglers for three decades have said, 'If we put 300 pounds in 10 different cars, nine of them are going to make it,' " said Peter Nunez, a former U.S. attorney in San Diego. "That's the strategy: Flood the port of entry. They know that with the law of averages, most will make it through." (5 Hendricks)

Of the four major cocaine importation points within the United States, three are located on the border in Arizona, Southern California, and Texas. Oftentimes, cocaine is carried across the U.S.-Mexico border by couriers called mules. When discussing mules, we arrive one of the human impacts of the drug trade. What are the moral implications? And from what sorts of circumstances does the moral dilemma arise in?

An anonymous 82-year-old woman from Bogota was unable to care for her mentally challenged son. Drug traffickers persuaded her that one trip to New York and back as a drug mule would earn her enough money for the rest of her son's future. She died when a pellet full of narcotics opened in her stomach during a cab ride from John F. Kennedy Airport. In yet another example, a mother left her 16-year-old son to die in a hotel in Queens, after the same happened to him. "There are so many cases, and they are all different," said Orlando Tobon, who helps families of drug-mules. Once he started, however, he did run into some troubles. (6 Sesin)

"The police was constantly following me and questioning me because they thought I was part of the mafia," he said. On one occasion, the police even resorted to searching his apartment at 4 a.m. Eventually, they learned he was not involved with drug traffickers. One police officer even donated money to his cause. A "swallower," as they are sometimes called, can die if a weak condom, holding the pellets, breaks in their stomachs. Further, "the acid from the stomach can break the rubber," Tobon said. In one case, he recalled: "The mafia opened her stomach with a knife and withdrew the drugs…Then they placed her body inside a bag and set it on fire." When at his busiest, Tobon handles three to four cases per week. He tries to contact the families, but since most victims carry false documents, sometimes this is impossible. "Sometimes I am the only one at the funeral, or sometimes it is just two of us."

Tobon says people are quick to donate money to his cause. "Most of the people who bring drugs are good people," he said. "They have to be good people…they have to educated, decent looking people so they don't look suspicious." In order for the problem of drug trafficking to be properly examined, the entire process must be analyzed, not only the problem of decreasing the amount of drugs getting in. Should there be different ways of dealing with criminals as opposed to their innocent dupes, who are often in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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