Most of the people whom the U.S. Border Patrol finds with drugs are U.S. citizens, said a new report based on data of border arrests.
The report, which examined data from 2005 to 2011, show that in more than 40,000 drug seizures where police reports identify a suspect, U.S. citizens were involved 80 percent of the time, said the report by the Center for Investigative Reporting.
The report said that the number of U.S. citizens the Border Patrol catches carrying drugs is rising “with three times more caught in 2011 than in 2005.”
The report cited several reasons for rising U.S. citizen roles in drug smuggling, among them an ailing U.S. economy, and medical marijuana laws in this country. Another reason for the rising involvement is that drug traffickers are seeking them out as recruits, hoping that they will attract less attention at the border, the report said.
“Being an American, being upper-middle-aged, that’s who they target,” the report quoted an unidentified U.S. citizen from Texas as saying. “For one thing, it’s a lot less suspicious for the Border Patrol.”
Another U.S. citizen interviewed in jail said he was amazed by how easy it was to get through checkpoints with hundreds of pounds of marijuana.
“I was amazed at how ineffective it was,” the report quoted the inmate, Todd Britton-Harr, 36, as saying about the U.S. immigration checkpoint. “What (U.S. law enforcement is) doing is not putting a dent in what (drug traffickers are) doing.”
Bitton-Harr, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, did his first smuggling in the spring of 2010, according to the report. He told the CIR researchers that for each drug run, he smuggled loads of between 1,000 and 1,500 pounds of marijuana valued at about $100,000.
The report suggested that the Border Patrol tends to make an extra effort to note when those arrested in drug busts are Mexican nationals.
Border Patrol officials told CIR that those who smuggle large enough amounts to be considered traffickers are mainly from Mexico. CIR, however, refuted that contention, saying that its review of the Border Patrol’s records showed “a U.S. citizen is more often caught with large amounts of drugs than a non-U.S. citizen.”
“They can be recruited anywhere – at parks, bars or schools, through friends or relatives,” the report said, attributing it to Howard Campbell, a professor at the University of Texas in El Paso.
Campbell added that along the border, “drug trafficking is such a normal activity that people are so desensitized to it. It’s part of the way of life…and part of the way people think about the world.”