A Real Border Crisis: Brutal Drug Runners and Ranchers Too Terrified To Report Them

FILE – In this Jan. 8, 2016 file photo, a handcuffed Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is made to face the press as he is escorted to a helicopter by Mexican soldiers and marines at a federal hangar in Mexico City. Mexico’s most notorious cartel kingpin who twice made brazen prison escapes and spent years on the run as the country’s most wanted man, was extradited to the United States on Thursday to face drug trafficking and other charges. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo, File)

While Democrats and progressives wring their hands and gather a mounting public relations storm to roll back Trump’s recent declaration of a national emergency on the southern border, people who are actually lving there have been telling a story that lends a great deal of credence to Trump’s decision.

The Conservative Review, in a piece titled, “Border county commissioner: Ranchers are scared to report drug trafficking crimes,” examines a situation at the border that makes it increasingly clear that there could be a full blown crisis of epic proportions at the border and most people may never hear of it. Why? Because ranchers, who own the land the brutal drug runners of the Jalisco and Sinaloa cartels use to traffic their wares, are terrified of reporting them for fear of retribution.

[Joel Edwards, one of the county commissioners in Hidalgo County, New Mexico] explained that the folks in Washington live near counties that are completely protected and have robust resources to deal with internal crime, yet his county is left in the lurch dealing with “sophisticated cartels” coming over an international border. And that is scaring his residents. “Some of them are afraid to even come forward because they live right there on the border,” said Edwards of the ranchers encountering drug traffickers dressed in paramilitary getup. “Some of my residents go back and forth across the border because they actually have some family on the other side of the border, and they fear retaliation from the cartel if they cooperate and [try] to do something about the border problem.”

As I’ve reported before, Hidalgo County has just four sheriff’s deputies for a county of several thousand square miles, with no law enforcement presence in the border ranch areas south of Highway 9. The county has money to add only two more deputies, a drop in the bucket for an area that size. “You know, we’re a poor county. The average income in this county is small, considerably small compared to the part of the country where the media lives,” said Edwards.

Perhaps that is why the media sees no emergency at the border. Hidalgo County alone has been forced to absorb roughly half of the more than 60 groups of 100-300 migrants at a time being smuggled through by the cartels since last October. While the cartels strain our Border Patrol with the health care and welfare of the migrants, they engage in their other criminal activity.

Edwards called the media’s assertion that drugs only come in at the points of entry “asinine” and invited anyone from the media to come on a tour with him and his rancher constituents.

Ranchers from as much as almost 100 miles north of the border report cartel members who are becoming increasingly bold and aggressive, destroying property while heavily armed, that make them the last thing anyone who wants to live wants to tangle with.

And what they’re running, of course, can be called a national emergency by anyone’s measure.

Over the weekend, the AP reported on the surge of fentanyl deaths in Arizona and how young kids are now dying from these Mexican oxy pills that are laced with fentanyl and produced by the Sinaloa cartel. I confirmed with the Phoenix DEA office that the main hubs for trafficking these drugs into the country are in Tucson and Phoenix, where high-level “wholesale” cartel officials are operating and shipping to distributors in the Great Plains, the Midwest, and the East Coast after the drugs are brought across the border. According to the Arizona DEA, in fiscal year 2017, they seized 45,940 pills. That number shot up to 379,557 in FY 2018 and stood at 123,000 just for the first three months of FY 2019. It’s all coming from the Sinaloa cartel and is brought in mainly in the Nogales area and sent to the vast network of cartel officials in the major Arizona cities. They also confirmed that the increase is driven by fake Xanax pills as well as fake oxy.

And if legislators in Washington think the problem is abating, they should redefine their terms.

Recent news headlines might lend the impression that the authorities on both sides of the border are making progress against the illicit drugs trade that runs through Mexico. In New York last week, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the once all-powerful former head of the Sinaloa cartel, was convicted on 10 counts of drug trafficking and money laundering. He was the highest profile drug boss to ever stand trial in the US.

Yet even if Guzmán may be spending the rest of his life in jail, the illicit drugs trade shows no signs of diminishing. Instead, business is booming. The US Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that Mexican heroin production increased 37 per cent to 111 tonnes in 2017. Cocaine production in Colombia also reached a record high in 2017.

So while Rep. Pelosi downplays the violence and illicit drug trade ravaging the nation as just so much political gamesmanship (which is itself a bit of political gamesmanship), Americans would do well to remember that national emergencies don’t always manifest as bloody battles waged between men with guns. Sometimes they’re sneakier and take  much longer to kill.