In recent years, the busy immigration inspection station has put a severe financial strain on the county and, in the process, revealed the tough monetary consequences of America’s massive expansion of border security and the government’s strategy for curbing the nation’s supply of drugs and illegal immigration.Remarkable story. Read the whole thing. Meanwhile, downstream, the New York Times reports that the Rio Grande Valley is the new "hotspot" for illegal immigration, though the number of apprehensions are less than a quarter of what they were at their height. See their story, framed in terms of the federal immigration bill debate.
Despite its remoteness, the Border Patrol’s Big Bend sector, where Sierra Blanca sits, has seen small-time drug busts skyrocket in recent years. An influx of agents tripled the local sector’s manpower, making the agency by far the biggest law enforcement presence around.
The Border Patrol checkpoint rarely catches drug mules making their way from Mexico or border crossers hidden in trunks. Illegal immigration apprehensions in the Big Bend sector historically have been among the lowest along the border.
The Sierra Blanca station essentially has become an immigration checkpoint in name only, as the bulked-up Border Patrol has ensnared mostly Americans there – thousands of them.
Even as the U.S. Border Patrol makes more small-time drug busts, the U.S. Justice Department is generally declining to prosecute these low-level cases. The federal government has largely walked away from paying local authorities to pick up the slack.
Roughly 8 out of 10 people busted in the sector between 2005 and 2011 were Americans caught at a checkpoint, according to data obtained by The Center for Investigative Reporting. A small fraction of those busts are referred to federal agencies for further investigation and possible prosecution. At the Sierra Blanca station, 88 percent of the seizures – mostly marijuana – were traffic stops for amounts below drug trafficking thresholds.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Drug war cash cow now a budget drain for Hudspeth County
Hudspeth County relies on the drug war as its main income source - not combating drugs smuggled from Mexico but mostly Americans caught with weed on I-10 at a Border Patrol checkpoint in Sierra Blanca. But now that the feds won't cover county jail costs, the drug war is busting their budget. Check out this excellent story from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Here are a few notable excerpts.