Local law enforcement officials are taking matters into their own hands against the drugs pouring into New Mexico after the federal government closed two border security checkpoints in the Alamogordo-area.
Otero County Sheriff David Black told the New York Post that he has deployed 44 lawmen to try to cover more than 6,600 square miles of land since the border crisis has helped strengthen the drug cartels.
“It’s a green light for the cartels when border checkpoints are down,” Black, 56, told the NY Post. “I’ve had to redeploy my guys.”
His deputies seized $60,000 worth of illicit drugs in April, up significantly from the $3,500 seized in January when agents were still working at the checkpoints. And, since October, CBP agents have found nearly a half ton of methamphetamine and at least seven tons of marijuana in the area, according to officials.
The closed border inspection points at U.S. Routes 54 and 70 served as extra layers of defense against the drug smugglers and illegal immigrants crossing near the El Paso border, which sits about 90 miles south of Otero County.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents were sent to El Paso to help with the influx of about 800 migrants a day.
What do DEA officials say?
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials also said that the abandoned checkpoints and continued chaos at the U.S.-Mexico border has helped the drug cartels to move their illegal drugs into the country.
“Are cartels capitalizing on the confusion at the border? Yes, they are!” DEA special agent Kyle Williamson told the NY Post. “They are using it as a cover to move drugs, which are coming through legal ports of entry. If your drugs are coming through legal ports of entry, you need lines of defense.”
“We’ve lost our second line of enforcement,” the 52-year-old Williamson added.
Williamson, who heads the DEA El Paso Division, said his team monitors nearly 800 miles along the U.S.-Mexico border and 11 international ports of entry.
The majority of the drugs are trafficked by the Barrio Aztecas, an enforcement arm of the Juarez Cartel, he told the newspaper.
“They are an incredibly violent gang,” Williamson said.
His agents recently seized 44 pounds of fentanyl, which he said is “enough to wipe out all of New Mexico, Texas and the entire state of Chihuahua.”
‘We have got to secure our border, period’
Last month, the small border community declared a state of emergency and on Thursday, the Otero County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution that county resources would not be used to help migrants, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
Couy Griffin, chairman of Otero County’s Board of Commissioners, who proposed the move to declare a state of emergency in the county, said the situation is dire.
“We have got to secure our border, period,” he told the NY Post.
New Mexico’s Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham recently withdrew 118 National Guard troops from the southern border in a move against President Donald Trump’s policies, which she described as a “charade of fear mongering.”
Black and Griffin strongly opposed the move and want the governor to redeploy troops to the border.
“Unfortunately, we have a governor who is so interested in politics that she has lost touch with the people of this county,” Griffin told the newspaper. “We have a governor who continues to claim that there is no crisis at the border.”
Black warned that crime rates across the country will increase if something isn’t done soon to secure the border.
“We give it six months for the crime statistics to start rising here,” he said. “And believe me, all of this is coming to a town near you, all over the country.”