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Border coalition: Security strategy falling short

Texas group says efforts lacking despite numbers touted by feds

After narcotics seizures surged 45 percent in 2010, the Laredo Customs District saw a relatively minimal increase in contraband that was intercepted at its ports in 2011.

Although the amount of methamphetamine and heroin seized by agents jumped, marijuana and undeclared cash remained steady while cocaine dipped. Inspectors credit the figures to an increased enforcement effort that has curbed the flow of drugs and other contraband.

But others aren't sure the federal government should applaud so loudly about the Laredo district figures, saying efforts on the whole are still lacking.

The Texas Border Coalition, a group of elected officials and private-sector leaders that advocates for more resources at the nation’s land ports, released a scathing report last week that says no matter how much the government spends on border security (about $90 billion over the last 10 years, according to the report), the current "ad hoc" strategy doesn’t hinder cartels from moving their products.

There is a mere 28 percent chance that a smuggler will get caught at the nation’s ports of entry, compared with a 90 percent of being detected between the ports of entry, the report states.

The group notes that although the number of U.S. Border Patrol agents has increased from about 4,000 in 1993 to more than 24,280 in 2012, funding for Customs and Border Protection inspectors at the nation's bridges has increased to only $2.9 billion this year from $1.6 billion in 1993. About 75 percent of that increase was consumed by rising inflation, the report states.

“So what has been done is a vacuum is caused right at the ports of entry,” said Weisberg-Stewart, explaining that cartels are taking advantage of the understaffed ports.

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security said it had increased staffing levels for CBP officers to 20,500. Still the border coalition says the staffing is not enough to man the 42 official border crossings the U.S. shares with Mexico.

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“This imbalanced deterrence contributes to America’s vulnerability to the Mexican drug cartels, terrorists and traffic in people and contraband at the designated border crossings,” the report states.

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1 comment on this story

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8 comments
Jan 18, 2012, 3:03 pm
-0 +1

The amount of any type of drug being smuggled across the border would drop precipitously if there were legal paths for users* to obtain them easily - in other words if those drugs were legalized.

*By “users” I mean adults responsible enough to walk into a liquor store for a bottle of whiskey or into a tobacco store for a pack of cigarettes or cigars.

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection

A canine is used to sniff for narcotics at a Texas port of entry.