Vast Majority of Border Patrol Drug Arrests are of U.S. Citizens

Friday, March 29, 2013
Border Patrol arrest mug shots from Hudspeth County, Texas (photos: Hudspeth County Sheriff's Office)

For much of the past decade, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have emphasized drug busts along the Mexican border as part of the government’s campaign targeting cartels.


But official records show that the vast majority of those arrested by CBP for possession of illegal drugs are U.S. citizens.


Americans make up about 75% of all drug-related arrests at the border, the Center for Investigative Reporting found. The media outlet also reported that when the immigration status of those detained was known, four out of five arrests involved at least one U.S. citizen.


The large number of Americans arrested has been steadily increasing in recent years. The total for 2011 was three times higher than that for 2005, the center said.


CBP’s own public relations statements give the impression that the majority of those arrested for drug smuggling are Mexican citizens. This plays into the hands of the drug traffickers, who increasingly recruit Americans to serve as their smugglers because they are less likely to be viewed with suspicion by border security. The drug suppliers find no shortage of Americans willing to make the runs, given the need for cash during tough economic times. Recruitment is said to occur almost anywhere, from parks and schools to bars and casinos.


Some people make more than a dozen smuggling runs before they get caught. "I was amazed at how ineffective [the checkpoint] was,” the center was told by Todd Britton-Harr, an American who was caught after making five runs, each with up to 1,500 pounds of marijuana. “What [U.S. law enforcement is] doing is not putting a dent in what [drug traffickers are] doing.”

-Danny Biederman, Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Four of Five Border Patrol Drug Busts Involve US Citizens, Records Show (by Andrew Becker, G.W. Schulz and Tia Ghose, Center for Investigative Reporting)

Increasing Cases of U.S. Citizens Detained as Illegal Immigrants (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov) 

Border Patrol Deported U.S.-Born Daughter of Fourth-Generation U.S. Citizen (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)       

Border Patrol Agents Kill 27-Year Resident of U.S. and 15-Year-Old Boy (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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