The NDIC’s 2011 Drug Market Analysis for South Texas stated: “Few physical barriers exist between [points of entry] to impede drug traffickers from smuggling illicit drug shipments into the region from Mexico.”
“Along many areas of the U.S.-Mexico border in South Texas, the Rio Grande River can easily be breached by smugglers on foot, in vehicles, or on boats or makeshift rafts, enabling Mexican [drug trafficking organizations] to smuggle multikilogram quantities of illicit drugs, primarily marijuana and cocaine, into the United States,” the report continued.
The NDIC also reported the illicit drug trade in the United States was “dominated” by Mexican drug cartels, with drug trafficking organizations from other countries lagging far behind in production and distribution of substances like cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamines.
“Major Mexican-based TCOs (transnational criminal organizations) will continue to dominate wholesale drug trafficking in the United States for the foreseeable future and will further solidify their positions through collaboration with U.S. gangs,” the NDIC predicted in its 2011 National Drug Threat Assessment.
The agency added that “The threat posed by the trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs will not abate in the near term and may increase.”
Soon after the report was published, the NDIC was shut down in June 2012 for “budgetary reasons.”
Now two years later, more than 227,000 illegal aliens have been apprehended at the Southwest U.S. border since last October, according to the latest report from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. About 63,000 of these are unaccompanied minors, with another 63,000 being family units. The surge of unaccompanied minors is largely coming from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
The wave of illegal crossings is highest by far in the Southwest border region, the region the NDIC reported is also the “primary gateway” for drug trafficking.
In 2011, the NDIC pointed out that the vast majority of drugs trafficked into the United States was coming across the Mexican border, saying the region “remains the primary gateway for moving illicit drugs into the United States” and that “most illicit drugs available in the United States are smuggled overland across the Southwest Border.”
“Major Mexican-based [criminal organizations] continue to solidify their dominance over the wholesale illicit drug trade as they control the movement of most of the foreign-produced drug supply across the U.S. Southwest border,” the report stated.
The agency’s Drug Market Analysis for South Texas identified the Southwest Border as “one of the most strategically significant cross-border drug smuggling corridors” because of the sheer length of the region’s border with Mexico. The analysis also singled out the McAllen/Brownsville sector as one of the most heavily-trafficked areas of the Southwest Border. The sector is currently the most heavily-inundated sector for illegal alien crossings.
But getting drugs across the border is only half the battle, the report points out. Once the drugs are in the United States, it takes manpower and established connections with gangs to move the product from the Texas border to metropolitan areas all over the country.
“Mexican [drug trafficking organizations], the dominant organizational drug threat to the South Texas region, are employing gang members to distribute drugs and conduct other criminal activity on their behalf,” the NDIC claimed.
According to multiple reports from U.S. Border Patrol agents, many of the 63,000 unaccompanied teenagers who have crossed the border illegally have clear ties to some of these gangs, such as the notoriously violent gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13. One border patrol agent reported gang members are even using phone banks set up by the Red Cross, which were intended to help unaccompanied minors get in touch with family members already in the United States, to connect with gang cells in U.S. cities and recruit new members.
Border patrol agents have also stated it is nearly impossible to verify claims of age and parentage by illegal aliens without documents, or to get a hold of a person’s criminal background in their home country before letting them into the United States. Teenagers with clear gang tattoos are treated as innocent minors under U.S. law, agents have warned.
Even when dealing with those who are simply coming to the United States in search of family or in hopes of a better life, the sheer number of people crowding into detention facilities ties up border patrol agents who would otherwise be patrolling for drug runners and criminals.
The Department of Health and Human Services reports more than 30,000 of these unaccompanied minors have already been placed with sponsors all across the United States. More than half of these children have been placed in states with the highest MS-13 presence in the nation, with thousands more waiting in temporary shelters located in major MS-13 strongholds.
The NDIC’s 2011 report also warned the federal government that gang involvement in Mexican drug trafficking operations was not only present, but growing.
“The threat posed by gang involvement in drug trafficking is increasing, particularly in the Southwest Region. With gangs already the dominant retail drug suppliers in major and mid-sized cities, some gang members are solidifying their ties to Mexican TCO’s to bolster their involvement in wholesale smuggling, internal distribution and control of the retail trade,” the NDIC reported.
The NDIC data showed the main drugs trafficked in the United States by Mexican-based cartels included cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamines. The report outlined the huge toll that illicit drugs take on American society, stating that, “In 2007 alone, the estimated cost of illicit drug use to society was $193 billion, including direct and indirect public costs related to crime, health and productivity.”
About $120 billion of the total stemmed from “lost productivity,” the data showed. About $61 billion was related to the cost of drug-related crime, while another $11 billion was lost due to drug-related health care, including medical intervention, emergency services, in-patient drug treatment and prevention and treatment research.
In 2009, emergency departments reported roughly 1 million visits due to illicit drug abuse, the NDIC said. That same year 3,952 people were killed in vehicle or motorcycle accidents linked to drug abuse.