Smartphone Smugglers: Social Media is Reshaping Border Crime in Arizona, Texas, California
There seem to be few areas where social media has not touched the smuggling world and few cases where it is not a factor.
The Washington Times reviewed 25 criminal smuggling cases filed in Arizona over the past two months in which migrants were held as witnesses — court documents usually provide the information — and found 17 had indications that smartphones were involved. That’s a rate of 68%.
The actual figure could be higher because Border Patrol agents filing other cases might not report smartphone use in court documents. In about half of the Arizona cases, The Washington Times reports, migrants were guided across the border and to rendezvous locations by smartphone.
Smugglers in several cases received real-time instructions or scouting reports. One smuggler said a text message gave a pin-drop location for his pickup. Another said he was communicating via WhatsApp — a Facebook application — with the smuggling coordinator throughout his trip. When agents got on his tail, he said, he was ordered not to pull over and to try to escape.
Smuggling organizations know the value — and the dangers — of the smartphone. Criminal case files are full of reports about foot guides, drivers and boat captains who tossed, smashed or wiped data from their phones once they saw Border Patrol agents closing in.
When agents do get access to texts or apps, they can build better cases and often puncture smugglers’ stories and excuses. Smartphones also are valuable to migrants.
“I’ve never met an immigrant who didn’t have a modern cellphone, a smartphone, that was fully plugged into the social media world and that gave them live-time intelligence information about where to go, when to go and how people upstream were doing,” Todd Bensman, a national security fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, told the Washington Times.
He said the most powerful lure is the collection of selfies their relatives, neighbors and friends text back home, advertising the ease of gaining a foothold in the U.S.
Smugglers have been using Facebook and Snapchat for years, but TikTok is relatively new, according to The Times’ database. Most major social media platforms have been used to recruit drivers or connect them with migrants.
Malik Jackson was nabbed in 2019 for smuggling after a citizen tipped off authorities. He said he responded to a Snapchat ad seeking drivers, according to court documents. He told agents the ad offered $300 per person to smuggle Mexicans and $600 per Chinese migrant.
Gequon Willis, nabbed at a highway checkpoint in California in 2019, said he saw a Snapchat video titled “Want to make some money.” He had been fired from his job and needed work, so he clicked through and someone contacted him and gave him instructions.
He picked up two illegal immigrants and was to be paid $1,000 per person.
WhatsApp is the most popular platform for smugglers, according to The Washington Times’ database, followed by Facebook and Snapchat. WhatsApp is particularly useful once drivers are recruited. Smuggling organizers use the app to relay instructions, help connect drivers and migrants and make sure they get through checkpoints.
Connecting migrants with drivers, which used to be tricky in remote areas, is now as easy as messaging a GPS pin to the driver over one of the apps. Smuggling scouts can give step-by-step directions to help migrants on foot avoid checkpoints.
Drivers about to be caught are ordered to trash phones or erase data. Smuggling networks have been derailed by undeleted texts with stash house locations or names that can be used to build cases.
Laredo Sector Border Patrol Arrests Illegal Aliens Using Fake Documents
LAREDO, Texas – U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to the Laredo North Station arrested eight illegal immigrants attempting to evade apprehension by using fraudulent identification documents as they were traveling via commercial buses through the Interstate 35 (I-35) checkpoint. The series of apprehensions occurred as agents performed immigration inspections on passengers of Greyhound or Tornado buses.
Greyhound buses in downtown El Paso, Texas
The first incident occurred during the evening of May 30. Baltazar Bentancourt-Najera, a 24-year-old Mexican national, was traveling on a Greyhound bus when he attempted to use both fraudulent Passport and Social Security Cards.
The next afternoon, Border Patrol agents encountered 35-year-old Luis Castenda-Pereyda, and 20-year-old Andres Bentancourt-Alcocer Jr., both Mexican nationals, who were traveling on another Greyhound bus. Both subjects presented fraudulent Passports and Social Security Cards to agents during an immigration inspection.
On June 2, agents came across Jovita Saucedo-Molina, a 27-year-old Mexican national, and Alejandra Nohemy Rosa-Sosa, a 21-year-old Honduran national, on a different Greyhound bus. Both subjects attempted evade apprehension by presenting fraudulent Order of Release on Recognizance forms.
The last encounter in this string of arrests happened early in the morning on June 3. Claudia Janet Menjivar-Cardona, a 34-year-old Honduran national; Julio Maximiliano Ruiz-Barrios, a 38-year-old Guatemalan national; and Giovanni Antonio Lara-Escobar, a 39-year-old Salvadoran national, were traveling onboard a Tornado Bus when a border agent performed immigration inspections. All three subjects presented fraudulent U.S. passport cards to agents to attempt to pass through the checkpoint.
All the individuals were found to be illegally in the country and were taken into custody to be processed for their immigration violations, the Border Patrol said.
Editor’s Note: The Border Patrol continues to call illegal aliens “undocumented individuals” in news releases.
Gang Member? Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Homeland Security is moving to cut questions about gang affiliation from the application migrants file to get green cards, in a change that one former employee says could mean dangerous criminals will have an easier time getting through the process.
Above: The Border Patrol detains MS13 gang members
Rob Law, a former chief of policy and strategy at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, revealed the planned changes Thursday, saying it appears to be part of the Biden team’s attempt at erasing the get-tough approach of the previous administration.
Mr. Law, who is now at the Center for Immigration Studies, told the Washington Times,“The biggest beneficiaries of that ‘compassion’ are apparently the most violent and dangerous aliens in the country.”
At issue is what’s known as the I-485, the form filed by those seeking to adjust their status to become lawful permanent residents or green card holders — the key step on the path to citizenship.
In the Trump years, questions were added asking applicants if they are, or ever were, part of a criminal association — i.e., a gang. Immigration officers can take that answer into account when deciding whether to grant the green card, though gang membership is not an automatic disqualifier.
USCIS, the agency that handles legal immigration cases, said it hasn’t made any final decisions.
“Updates to USCIS policies or procedures are publicly communicated in a timely manner through various outreach platforms,” the agency said.
The Washington Times says it has reviewed a document that does call for the deletion of Trump additions.
Mr. Law said the new Biden team at USCIS has deemed the gang-related questions to be “politically motivated.” But Law, who served during the Trump years, says the questions were developed with career staff’s involvement and were based on a request from the Justice Department.
“The Biden administration appears unconcerned that the absence of gang information in the I-485 will allow bad actors to obtain green cards that would have been denied if only the adjudicator had the information,” Mr. Law said.
Posted May 28, 2021
Yuma, Az Area Agents Intercept Interstate Smuggling Attempt
YUMA, Ariz. – Yuma Sector Border Patrol agents assigned to the Wellton checkpoint station intercepted a smuggling attempt along Interstate 8 on May 13.
At Left: Three illegal aliens arrested near Yuma
At approximately 9 a.m., agents conducted a vehicle stop on a suspicious vehicle along the interstate east of Yuma, the Border Patrol said. Agents determined that the driver of the vehicle, a 19-year-old male U.S. citizen, was attempting to smuggle three illegal aliens into the interior of the country. Agents arrested the driver, who is from Merced, California, and seized the vehicle.
The illegal aliens — a 22-year-old female and a 32- and 34-year-old male — will be returned to Mexico under Title 42, the Border Patrol said. (Note: The patrol referred to the illegal aliens as “migrants.”)
Five migrant girls found abandoned in sweltering heat by Texas farmer
Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, spoke with the farmer who said he found the “baby girls” hungry and crying. He said one was naked and was crawling because she was too young to walk.
Gonzales tweeted a photo of the girls Sunday night with the caption, “Take a good hard look at the #BidenBorderCrisis… @POTUS enough is enough let’s work together [to] solve this crisis.”
Five abandoned migrant girls, all under the age of 7, were discovered Sunday by a Texas farmer on his land in Quemado, near the Rio Grande River. (Photo: Fox News)
The farmer said it was very hot so he provided them shelter and gave them some food before authorities arrived. He said he did not believe they would have survived if he had not spotted them.
The incident seemed to underscore the worsening situation along the southern border. The farmer told Gonzales that he lived on the farm since 1946 and he never experienced such conditions.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection told Fox News the girls would go under the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services once they were processed. The girls ranged in age from 11 months to 7 years old, according to ABC 7. Three of them are believed to be from Honduras and the other two from Guatemala. The report said the girls did not require medical attention.
Chief Border Patrol Agent Austin Skero II called the discovery “heartbreaking.”
“Unfortunately this happens far too often now. If not for our community and law enforcement partners, these little girls could have faced the more than 100-degree temperatures with no help,” he said.
Story Credit: Edmund DeMarche, a senior news editor for FoxNews.com.
Posted May 11, 2021
El Centro Sector Border Patrol Agents Arrest Convicted Rapist in So-Cal
U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to the El Centro Sector in Southern California arrested an illegal alien the afternoon of April 5 with a prior convictions for rape and other sexual offenses.
Agents assigned to the El Centro Border Patrol Station arrested a 46-year-old male, a citizen of Mexico, after he illegally entered the United States approximately 29 miles west of the Calexico Port of Entry. Agents placed the man under arrest and transported him to the El Centro Centralized Processing Center for further processing.
Unnamed rapist apprehended at So-Cal border.
Record checks revealed that in 2007, the man was convicted in Hemet, California, of rape, sodomy, and oral copulation; all with a person under the age of 18. The man was subsequently sentenced to over nine years in prison for his crimes. The man was previously removed from the United States to Mexico in 2014.
[It is not known why the Border Patrol (BP) declined to release the man’s name. We sent an email to the BP asking who the man is and whether he will be released into the interior United States under President Biden’s new border policies. As of May 11, 2021, we have not received a reply.]
As a convicted felon, the Border Patrol states, the subject faces a charge of 8 USC § 1326 – Re-entry After Deportation, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison. In fiscal year 2021, which began Oct. 1, 2020, El Centro Sector Border Patrol agents arrested and/or removed 17 individuals either convicted or wanted on sexual offense charges, BP said.
The Border Protection’s El Centro Sector covers the Imperial Valley in Southern California and has four Border Patrol stations. They are located in the cities of El Centro, Calexico, Indio, and Riverside. The El Centro Sector is responsible for 70 miles of international border.
Posted April 6, 2021
Border Agents Intercept 40 Pounds of Meth in California
San Clemente, Calif. — U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agents arrested a man Feb. 10 who was transporting 41 pounds of methamphetamine in his vehicle.
That Wednesday morning, agents observed a man in a red Mustang driving erratically on Interstate 5 near San Clemente. As agents attempted to catch up to the man, he rapidly cut across traffic, exited at a nearby rest stop, and parked.
At the rest stop, agents questioned the driver, a 20-year-old U.S. citizen, and received consent to search the 1998 Ford Mustang. A service K-9 dog inspecting the vehicle sounded an alert and the driver admitted to agents that narcotics were the vehicle.
Agents arrested the man and transported him to a nearby Border Patrol station for processing. At the station, agents continued their search of the Mustang and in the trunk of the car located 30 suspicious packages contained methamphetamine.
The narcotics weighed 41.33 pounds and had an approximate street value of $41,330. The driver and narcotics were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration. The man, whose name was not released, may face federal prosecution, depending on prevailing Democrat policies.
The vehicle was seized by USBP. This year to date, the San Diego Sector has seized more than 625 pounds of cocaine, 479 pounds of methamphetamine, 62 pounds of heroin, and 252 pounds of fentanyl.
San Diego Sector’s Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke stated, “These drugs could have wreaked havoc on any American community. Thankfully, our agents prevented that from happening.”
Border Patrol Agents Foil Teen’s Attempt to Smuggle Meth Through Checkpoint
OCOTILLO, Calif. – El Centro Sector Border Patrol agents arrested a teenager attempting to smuggle more than 43 pounds of methamphetamine through the immigration checkpoint Feb. 4.
At approximately 4 p.m., a Border Patrol K-9 detection team gave an alert when a silver Acura MDX approached the State Route 2 checkpoint. Agents directed the vehicle to enter the secondary inspection area for further investigation, resulting in agents discovering 14 plastic-wrapped packages of suspected narcotics inside the spare tire. The contents tested positive for the characteristics of meth. Agents arrested the driver and transported him to the El Centro Processing Center for further processing.
Border Patrol agents seized 43.62 pounds of suspected meth.
The total weight of the methamphetamine was approximately 43.62 pounds, with an estimated value more than $98,000.
El Centro Sector turned over the driver, a 17-year-old United States citizen, the vehicle, and the narcotics to Imperial Valley Narcotics Task Force.
Laredo CBP Officers Seize Hard Narcotics Worth More Than $6.4 Million
LAREDO, Texas—U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of Field Operations (OFO) officers at the Laredo Port of Entry seized hard narcotics valued at $6.4 million in three separate, unrelated enforcement actions.
The first enforcement action occurred Tuesday, Jan. 19 at the Colombia-Solidarity Bridge when CBP officers assigned to the cargo facility encountered a tractor hauling an empty trailer arriving from Mexico. The 2013 Freightliner tractor and trailer were referred for a canine and non-intrusive imaging system inspection.
Officers discovered 40 packages containing 105.99 pounds of alleged cocaine within the trailer. The narcotics have an estimated street value of $817,360.
The second seizure occurred later that evening at the same bridge when CBP officers encountered a second tractor hauling an empty trailer from Mexico. The 2013 Freightliner tractor and trailer were referred for further inspection by a canine and non-intrusive imaging system, resulting in the discovery of 40 packages containing 272.93 pounds of alleged methamphetamine within the trailer. The narcotics have an estimated street value of $5,458,589.
The third narcotics interception happened on Thursday, Jan. 21 when a CBP officer assigned to World Trade Bridge in Laredo referred for secondary inspection an express consignment truck making entry from Mexico. Using their imaging system, CBP officers discovered four packages containing 7.05 pounds of alleged fentanyl. The narcotics have an estimated street value of $197,400.
The narcotics combined have an estimated street value of $6,473,349.
CBP officers seized the narcotics and two trailers. The cases were turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) special agents for further investigation.
“Officers at the Laredo Port of Entry continue to maintain a robust enforcement posture by targeting high-risk shipments and successfully disrupting the flow of deadly narcotics from entering our country,” said Acting Port Director Eugene Crawford, Laredo Port of Entry.
Yuma Agents Aid Baby in Need of Medical Attention
YUMA, Ariz. – Yuma Sector Border Patrol agents assigned to the Yuma station encountered a group of illegal crossers the afternoon of Jan. 12 and determined a seven-month-old baby among them needed medical attention.
An agent encountered the group east of the San Luis Port of Entry at approximately 3 p.m. The agent noticed that a baby in the group had an exposed stoma (opening in the abdomen) and called an EMT to the scene to monitor the child. After checking the baby and interviewing the parents, the EMT determined that the baby needed medical attention.
“After interviewing the parents about the baby’s medical history, he determined that the baby needed humidified oxygen,” said Enrique Mora, coordinator of Yuma Sector’s emergency medical program.
EMS was called to the scene and transported the baby to the hospital. The baby, a citizen of Costa Rica, was later flown to a Phoenix hospital for specialized care. His mother, who is from Venezuela, accompanied him to the hospital, while his Cuban father and two Venezuelan siblings remained in custody in Yuma.
“Our Emergency Medical Technicians take the initiative to gain additional skills beyond those of Border Patrol agents and are always ready to respond to the needs of the community,” Mora said. “Yesterday’s response exemplifies the commitment to ensuring the safety of aliens in distress.”
CBP Field Operations Makes ‘Colossal’ Methamphetamine Bust Worth $37 Million at Texas Border
PHARR, Texas—U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials at the Pharr International Bridge cargo facility struck a blow on narcotics smuggling organizations with the seizure of $37,000,000 worth of alleged methamphetamine discovered in a commercial shipment of fresh tomatoes.
A CBP officer at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge cargo facility on Dec. 19 referred a tractor/trailer hauling a commercial shipment of fresh tomatoes to the non-intrusive imaging (NII) portal as part of the secondary inspection. This allowed the officers to continue the examination and ultimately discover 657 packages concealed within the trailer’s floor, containing 1,853 pounds (840.5 kg) of alleged methamphetamine.
CBP, Office of Field Operations (OFO) seized the narcotics, the tractor/trailer. The case remains under investigation by Homeland Security Investigations.
“This interception of methamphetamines is certainly on the list of the more significant drug seizures for the Port of Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas and will definitely impact this type of illicit activity,” said Port Director Carlos Rodriguez.
CBP Officers Seize More Than $1 Million in Meth at Eagle Pass, Texas
EAGLE PASS, Texas—U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), seized methamphetamine valued at over $1 Million in two separate, unrelated enforcement actions at the Camino Real International Bridge in Texas.
The first interception occurred Dec. 5, when CBP officers assigned to the Camino Real International Bridge encountered a 2015 Nissan Juke, driven by a 48-year-old male U.S. citizen and referred the vehicle for a secondary examination. Officers conducting a canine and non-intrusive imaging system inspection discovered seven packages containing 35.05 pounds of alleged crystal methamphetamine concealed within the vehicle.
The second seizure, also by the Office of Field Operations (OFO) at the Eagle Pass Port of Entry, the same day. CBP officers assigned to the Camino Real International Bridge encountered a 2010 GMC Terrain, driven by a 23-year-old male U.S. citizen, and referred the vehicle for a secondary examination.
Packages containing nearly 16 pounds of meth seized at the Camino Real International Bridge, Texas
Officers inspected the vehicle with a non-intrusive imaging system and discovered 12 packages containing 15.7 pounds of alleged crystal methamphetamine hidden within the GMC Terrain.
The seized narcotics from the two operations has an estimated street value of $1,014,998.
CBP officers seized the narcotics and the vehicles, and arrested the drivers. The cases were turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) special agents for further investigation.
“Narcotics interceptions like these are a prime example of CBP’s law enforcement mission and our effort to keep our streets safe from unlawful activity,” said Port Director Paul Del Rincon, Eagle Pass Port of Entry.
Rio Grande Valley Sector Border Patrol Arrests 100 illegal aliens in Texas
EDINBURG, Texas – Rio Grande Valley Sector Border Patrol agents arrested 100 illegal aliens during three enforcement actions.
Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Sector agents, in coordination with Starr County authorities, on Nov. 19 investigated a Rio Grande City, Texas, residence suspected of harboring illegal aliens. When law enforcement personnel approached the home, the illegal aliens harbored inside exited the residence. A total of 21 illegal aliens were taken into custody.
Later that day, RGV Sector agents in conjunction with Hidalgo County Sheriffs’ Office received information that a trailer home in Edinburg, Texas, was used as a human smuggling “stash house.” The law enforcement agents conducted a welfare check and encountered several foreign nationals illegally in the United States. The Border Patrol said the illegal aliens were kept in poor living conditions with minimal ventilation. Authorities arrested 18 subjects determined to be from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
Early the morning of Nov. 20, agents working near farmlands in south McAllen, Texas, detected over 50 subjects illegally entering the United States and attempting to travel further inland. Their efforts to move further into the country were impeded by a new section of border wall in the area, Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) said.
Agents were able to apprehend 61 subjects, including two unaccompanied juveniles, from Mexico, Venezuela, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. All subjects were medically screened and processed accordingly, CPB said.
Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Arrests Two More Sex Offenders
EDINBURG, Texas – Rio Grande Valley Sector Border Patrol agents recently arrested two illegal aliens with prior convictions for sexual offenses.
Agents working in the vast ranch lands of Falfurrias, Texas, the afternoon of Oct. 18 apprehended a Guatemalan national who admitted to being illegally present in the United States. During processing, records checks revealed that Lucas Morales-Perez was arrested in Oregon by the Woodburn Police Department in 2017 for sexual assault. In 2018, the Marion County Circuit Court convicted Morales-Perez of three counts of 3rd Degree Rape and sentenced him to 120 days confinement and 60 months probation.
Border Patrol agents working in Mission, Texas, encountered a citizen of El Salvador found to be illegally present in the U.S. Records checks by McAllen, Texas, agents revealed that the 40-year-old man, identified as Mario Salvador Mendoza-Rodriguez (above), was convicted of Lewd or Lascivious Act with a Child under 14 Years of Age in 2013. He was sentenced to 72 months imprisonment.
Convicted California Murderer, Sex Offender, Six Others Arrested in Texas
EDINBURG, Texas – Border Patrol agents arrest a convicted murderer, convicted sex offender and six illegal aliens on Nov. 17 and 18.
Harlingen agents working near Norias, Texas, on Nov. 17 arrested a Salvadoran national after they discovered him traversing through the brush on remote Kenedy County (population 404) ranch lands. During processing, record checks revealed Alvaro Humberto Aleman-Merlos had been arrested multiple times in California including once for murder in the first degree. A judge subsequently sentenced him to 25 years to life on the murder charge. Additionally, Aleman-Merlos has various robbery and burglary felony convictions that occurred in Los Angeles.
McAllen, Texas agents working near Hidalgo, on Nov. 18 arrested seven foreign nationals who were found to have illegally entered the United States. During processing, record checks for a Honduran male, later identified as Jose Villatoro-Simon, revealed a previous arrest by the Fairfax Police Department for aggravated sexual battery / victim incapacitated. A judge found VILLATORO-Simon guilty of the crime and sentenced him to four years imprisonment.
The illegal aliens were sent by bus to Barack and Michelle Obama’s home in Martha’s Vineyard. Correction: Customs and Border Patrol processed all arrestees in accordance with the law.
Border Patrol Arrests Guatemalan Sex Offender in Southern Arizona
TUCSON, Ariz. – U.S. Border Patrol agents in southern Arizona arrested a sex offender near the village of San Miguel on the Tohono O’odham Nation on Oct. 28.
Agents patrolling near the international boundary tracked and arrested 29-year-old Honorio Perez after he made illegal entry into the United States through the desert.
The Border Patrol said records checks revealed the Guatemalan national was convicted of sexual offenses against a child in Floyd County, Ga, in 2012. After completing his subsequent prison sentence, Perez was removed from the country in 2017.
Perez faces felony immigration prosecution, as he is a previously removed felon with a lifetime ban from the United States.
All people apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol undergo criminal history checks using biometrics to ensure illegal aliens with criminal histories are positively identified, a Customs and Border Patrol spokesman said.
CBP Field Operations at Hidalgo International Bridge Seizes $1.3 Million in Hard Harcotics
HIDALGO, Texas—U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) arrested two men at the Hidalgo International Bridge in connection with a failed drug-smuggling attempt of alleged methamphetamine and heroin worth nearly $1.3 million.
On Nov. 10, a CBP officer assigned to the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge referred a 2007 Honda Accord for further inspection. Using non-intrusive imaging (NII) equipment along with all available tools and resources as part of the secondary examination, officers discovered that the vehicle’s gas tank contained hidden material, suspected to be narcotics. CBP officers, Office of Field Operations (OFO), extracted from the gas tank 12 packages of alleged heroin weighing 27.34 pounds (12.40 kg) and bulk alleged methamphetamine weighing 33.9 pounds (15.38 kg).
The street value of the narcotics is $620,000 and $678,000, respectively, or $1,298,000 combined, the CBP reported.
Customs and Border Patrol seized the narcotics and the vehicle, and arrested two men, aged 21 and 23, both U.S. citizens from McAllen and Hidalgo, Texas., respectively. They were turned over to the custody of agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for further investigation.
“I commend our frontline officers for their hard work and exceptional dedication to the CBP mission in helping keep dangerous drugs out of our communities,” said Port Director Carlos Rodriguez, Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas Port of Entry. “These interceptions of hard narcotics are indicative of the resiliency displayed by our officers every day, as they conduct daily operations.”
Two US Citizens Arrested for Attempting to Smuggle Illegal Aliens
YUMA, Ariz. – Yuma Sector Border Patrol Agents assigned to the Blythe Station arrested two U.S. citizens after they attempted to smuggle three illegal aliens through the Highway 78 immigration checkpoint Thursday night.
Agents referred a Mazda hatchback to the checkpoint’s secondary inspection area after a canine alerted to the vehicle at approximately 5 p.m. Nov. 12. At secondary checkpoint, agents instructed the vehicle occupants to exit the vehicle and discovered two illegal aliens sitting in the back seat and one hiding in the rear cargo area.
Agents arrested the driver and front passenger for alien smuggling and seized the vehicle. The three Mexican Nationals were arrested for illegal entry and returned to Mexico. (Editor’s Note: If Joe Biden were president, they would have allowed into the United States and told to report back in a year or so.)
Ninth Circuit upholds immigration detention by federal contractor
WASHINGTON—The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Oct. 26 vacated a lower-court injunction against the operation of a California immigration detention center managed by a federal contractor. The injunction had been based on California Senate Bill 29 (SB 29), a law that sets up hurdles to opening privately-operated immigration detention facilities in the state. The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the appeal in support of the contractor.
Activist plaintiffs sued the contractor and the City of McFarland to shut down a detention facility in that city that is being used to house overflow detainees who cannot safely remain in their former facilities due to the pandemic. The plaintiffs claimed that the onerous procedures SB 29 mandates were not followed, and the lower court agreed. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit disagreed, finding that the law’s procedures had been fully complied with.
“This case is important because California, where there are so many illegal aliens, has a great need for detention facilities, a need even greater than before due to the policy of spacing detainees to protect them from COVID-19,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI.
“Heedless of health and public safety consequences, the plaintiffs in this suit were intent on using SB 29 as it was intended—to crash the system,” he said. “We are pleased that the Ninth Circuit terminated the lower court’s injunction, allowing federal immigration enforcement to continue in McFarland and elsewhere in the state.”
The case is Immigrant Legal Resource Center v. City of McFarland, No. 20-16557 (Ninth Circuit).
Supreme Court to hear Trump immigration cases on border wall, asylum
The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear the Trump administration’s appeal of two lower court rulings on his border wall construction and his crackdown on bogus asylum claims.
The Border Wall
The Supreme Court will determine the merits of a lower court ruling that the Trump administration improperly diverted Defense Department money to build portions of the border wall with Mexico.
The high court has previously allowed construction to continue, after a federal appeals court ruled in June that the administration had illegally sidestepped Congress in transferring the Defense Department funds. It’s also not clear whether the administration has spent all of the $2.5 billion it moved to the wall project.
Congress’ power to appropriate spending “is a core structural protection of the Constitution — a wall, so to speak, between the branches of government that prevents encroachment of the House’s and Senate’s power of the purse,” the panel wrote.
Remain in Mexico
The Washington Times reported that the asylum policy, officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols but more commonly called “Remain in Mexico,” was crucial to stemming the surge last year of illegal immigrant families.
Justices will have to decide whether Congress granted the president the power to push people back across the border to wait for their asylum cases to be processed in U.S. immigration courts.
“What’s at stake in these cases is whether our law allows the president to act quickly to respond to an asylum and illegal alien crisis, or whether he has to work through a deadlocked Congress to get anything done,” said Christopher Hajec, director of litigation at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which wants stricter immigration controls.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Trump’ Remain in Mexico policy, but the Supreme Court allowed the policy to remain in place during appeal.
The case will not be argued before the winter and it is unclear how the presidential election would affect the case. If Democrat Joe Biden wins the White House and his party takes the Senate, he has pledged to end border wall construction and leading Democrats have indicated they will add additional justices to the Supreme Court to ensure more progressive outcomes.
Border Wall Miles Built = 341, Miles to be Built = 516+
Border Patrol Agents Nab Cuban Couple with $406,000 in Cocaine at Pharr International Bridge
PHARR, Texas—U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents at the Pharr International Bridge on Oct. 10 arrested two legal permanent residents (LPRs) from Odessa, Texas in connection with a failed drug smuggling attempt of alleged cocaine worth $406,300.
The CPB said a 37-year-old man and 38-year-old woman, both Cuban nationals, arrived at the Pharr International Bridge in a Ford Explorer Sport Trac SUV and were referred for a thorough secondary examination by Customs and Border Protection agents.
“Utilizing non-intrusive imaging (NII) equipment as part of the secondary inspection allowed the officers to discover packages of suspected narcotics hidden within the SUV. Officers removed 22 packages of alleged cocaine weighing 52.70 pounds (23.90 kg) from the vehicle,” the CPB said.
Right: Packages containing nearly 53 pounds (23.90 kg) of cocaine seized by CBP officers at Pharr International Bridge 10-10-2020, courtesy CBP Hidalgo.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents Office of Field Operations (OFO) at the Pharr International Bridge seized the narcotics and the vehicle, and arrested the two persons involved in the failed smuggling attempt. Agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) took them into custody while they continue with the investigation.
“This was another great example of teamwork by our frontline officers at one of our border crossings,” said Port Director Carlos Rodriguez, Port of Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas. “CBP strengthens our border security through enforcement actions like this one and in so doing continues to prevent drugs from crossing our borders.”
President Trump, at the U.S.-Mexico border, discusses progress. (Photo: Hannity.com)
President Trump: Winning on the Border
President Donald J. Trump has built more than 340 miles of wall at the United States-Mexico border as of Oct. 14. U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports that 307 miles of wall have been built as of Sept. 1, 2020. Nearly 300 miles of that is replacement or upgraded wall, often replacing porous, easily-cut wire fence.
President Trump likely would have constructed more border wall if not for judges slowing or halting the work. Recently, for example, California and 19 other states filed suit over the President’s emergency declaration to build a border wall. The states recently requested a court order to stop money from being diverted to fund the project.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Sept. 18 that the group took action to prevent $1.6 billion from being diverted from fighting drug trafficking and funding military construction projects.
The Supreme Court in July ruled that the Trump administration could start using military funds to construct a wall on the southern border, handing the president a major legal victory. The ruling allowed the administration to use $2.5 billion in military funds to begin construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border while litigation plays out. The Supreme Court overruled the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which had issued an injunction blocking officials from using those funds.
Border News Roundup:
Border Agents Arrest 13 People Smuggled inside Sealed Cardboard Boxes
LAREDO, Texas – U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to the Interstate Highway 35 checkpoint north of Laredo stopped an attempt to smuggle 13 illegal aliens into the United States inside cardboard boxes.
During an immigration inspection of the driver and front seat passenger of a commercial van at the checkpoint Oct. 3, a Border Service canine inspecting the van alerted agents that the vehicle deserved further attention.
The vehicle and visible passengers were referred to a secondary inspection area, where agents discovered several tape-sealed boxes in the van’s cargo area. Opening the boxes, agents found 13 individuals hidden inside. The surprise passengers were medically screened, but were not in need of further medical attention, though the ambient temperature in the van was recorded as being 95 degrees.
Above: A ‘boxed’ illegal alien, one of 13 discovered by the U.S. Border Patrol at the Laredo, Texas checkpoint. (CBP Photo)
The unboxed individuals were determined to be illegally in the United States from the countries of Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Ecuador. They were placed under arrest, along with the U.S. citizen driver and passenger, pending further investigation. The van, rental vehicle, was towed away at the owner’s expense.
Despite the increase of COVID-19 infections among detainees, smugglers continue to endanger the people they exploit for profit, Laredo Sector Chief Patrol Agent Matthew J. Hudak said.
“Once again we have seen a criminal human smuggling case in which smugglers packed illegal aliens inside enclosed containers, this time boxes, he said. “These inhumane conditions are totally contrary to every practice that our country is following to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and puts our agents and community at risk of infection.”
AMO and USBP Rescue Undocumented Alien Trapped by Wildfire
DOUGLAS, Arizona – Federal border protection agents rescued a distressed illegal alien trapped by a forest fire east of Douglas on Oct. 1.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations (AMO) agents on a training mission diverted to collaborate with U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agents to rescue the undocumented alien, a woman, surrounded by fire and smoke.
Scanning from an ASTAR helicopter and unmanned aerial systems aircraft, AMO’s aircrews arrived in the area and attempted to land near the individual, but were unsuccessful due to the flames. In a second attempt, the aircrew picked up two Border Patrol agents and dropped them near the fire zone to attempt the rescue on foot. The agents located the woman and escorted her to the helicopter. The AMO helicopter crew then flew one agent and the individual to Hedglen Forward Operating Base, where a CBP EMT treated her on scene. Douglas EMS then transported her to a local hospital in fair condition.
At left: Aircraft dropping slurry nearby in an effort to stop the progress of a forest fire
“The brave efforts of our AMO agents and our Border Patrol partners were paramount to bringing this person to safety,” said Jose Muriente, Director Air Operation, National Air Security Operations Center—Sierra Vista, Arizona.
Border Patrol Arrests Two Sex Offenders Illegally Re-entering the United States from Mexico
TUCSON, Arizona — U.S. Border Patrol agents in southern Arizona apprehended two previously-removed sex offenders in separate incidents on Sept. 29.
Photo Courtesy of U.S. CBP
The first incident occurred when Tucson agents patrolling near Three Points, AZ., encountered 35-year-old Angel Rodas Herrera Wednesday afternoon. Records checks revealed the Guatemalan citizen was arrested in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 2016, and convicted of “criminal sexual conduct.” He was sentenced to 365 days of confinement.
Later that day, Border Patrol agents arrested a group of four men along Interstate 10 near Casa Grande.Records checks revealed one man, 33-year-old Mexican national Antonio Castaneda Salinas, was convicted of “aggravated criminal sexual assault with a minor aged 13 to 17” in McHenry County, Ill., in 2007. He was sentenced to 24 months special probation and removed to Mexico on December 11, 2009. Castaneda Salinas is a registered sex offender.
Both men remain in custody, pending federal prosecution on charges of re-entry of a previously-deported felon. The other three men encountered were expelled to Mexico under Title 42 authority, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said.
All people apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol undergo criminal history checks using biometrics to ensure illegal aliens with criminal histories are positively identified, the CBP said.
Border Patrol Agents Arrest Two Sexual Predators
HIDALGO, Texas — Border Patrol agents arrested two Mexican nationals with sex-related criminal histories Sept. 28 in Hidalgo, Texas.
The Texas Department of Public Safety contacted the Weslaco border station Sept. 24 and requested assistance on a vehicle stop in Hidalgo, Texas. Upon arrival, agents interviewed the occupants, identified the passengers as being illegally present in the United States, and transported them to the station for processing. During processing, record checks for a Mexican national, later identified as Jorge Gamez-Salas revealed a prior arrest and conviction in Dallas County, Texas, for “Indecency with a Child,” for which he was sentenced to two years confinement.
Two days later on Sept. 26, Texas agents from McAllen working near Hidalgo, Texas, arrested Fernando Luna-Mendoza, for illegally entering the United States. During processing, record checks revealed Luna-Mendoza was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child, a first-degree felony, He received five years confinement for that conviction in Henderson County, Texas.
The Border Patrol decided not to turn the subjects lose in Arizona.
CBP Field Operations Arrests Man Wanted on Sexual Assault Charges at Anzalduas International Bridge, Texas
ANZALDUAS, Texas — U.S. Customs and Border Protection arrested a 48-year-old man, a legal permanent resident Mexican national from Edinburg, Texas who was wanted locally on aggravated sexual assault charges.
The CBP, Office of Field Operations (OFO) arrested Jesus Hernandez Resendez Sept. 21 at the Anzalduas International Bridge after he arrived in a white Ford F-150 pickup truck and an initial check by a CBP officer revealed that Hernandez Resendez was a possible match to an outstanding arrest warrant. Officers secured him and escorted to a secondary location where his identity and active arrest warrant from the San Juan, Texas Police Department were confirmed through biometric verification. Hernandez Resendez has been on the wanted list on an aggravated sexual assault charge, a first-degree felony, since 2018 for an alleged incident that occurred in 2015 involving a female minor, a family member under the age of 14.
“Our ability to check every person arriving from Mexico through CBP and law-enforcement databases allows us to determine who we are dealing with, whether further inspection is warranted or in cases like this, to discover that an outstanding arrest warrant exists for that person,” said Port Director Carlos Rodriguez, Port of Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas.
Cincinnati CBP Seizes Methamphetamine
Disguised as Drink Mixes
CINCINNATI, Ohio — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Cincinnati on Sept. 16 intercepted smuggled narcotics in a shipment of powdered drinks imported from Mexico. The shipment contained 15 pounds of methamphetamine, with a street value of approximately $230,400.
CBP Narcotic Detector Dog Bruno was working incoming freight from Mexico when he alerted officers to a package manifested as “18 sachets.” Destined to a private residence in Houston, Texas, the shipment contained 18 foil packets labeled as various powdered drinks. Officers tested the drink mixes, which were identified as methamphetamine.
Bruno the CPB dog and handler
“The work of the brave men and women at the Port of Cincinnati and the hard work and dedication of our canine teams has prevented yet another shipment of dangerous drugs from reaching our communities,” said Cincinnati Port Director Richard Gillespie, emphasizing the importance of his officers and their canine partners to the success of the CBP mission.
With more than 1,500 canine teams, the CBP Canine Program is the largest and most diverse law enforcement canine program in the country, the agency says. Canines are taught to detect concealed humans, narcotics, currency, firearms, and are specialized in other disciplines such as search and rescue, tracking and trailing, human remains detection, and special response support.
CBP conducts operations at ports of entry throughout the United States, and regularly screens arriving international passengers and cargo for narcotics, weapons, and other restricted or prohibited products. CBP strives to serve as the premier law enforcement agency enhancing the Nation’s safety, security, and prosperity through collaboration, innovation, and integration.
AMO & CBP Fact Sheet:
Air and Marine Operations (AMO) safeguards our nation by anticipating and confronting security threats through our aviation and maritime law enforcement expertise, innovative capabilities, and partnerships at the border and beyond. With approximately 1,800 federal agents and mission support personnel, 240 aircraft, and 300 marine vessels operating throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands, AMO conducts its mission in the air and maritime environments at and beyond the border, and within the nation’s interior.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with management, control and protection of our nation’s borders at and between official ports of entry. CBP’s mission includes keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws. Follow them on Twitter @CBPArizona.