- - Monday, May 23, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

“Lobos” has made another bust. Back in December, the K-9 dog Lobos and his human partner, Fayette County Texas Deputy Sheriff Sgt. Randy Thumann, made a routine stop on Interstate 10 and Lobos’ super nose turned up $4 million in liquid methamphetamine hidden in the vehicle of two Mexican nationals. A month later, the law enforcement pair made another stop on I-10. This time, Lobos found $428,000 in cash hidden away in a Honda Odyssey driven by Jose Cortez, 28, and Maria Martinez, 26, both Mexican citizens. Drugs are transported up from Mexico — U.S. dollars are delivered back down to Mexico. Good dog, Lobos!

Unfortunately, the good work of Lobos and the other law enforcement officers working I-10 is about to be swept away by a tsunami of heroin from Mexico. Last week, in an effort to make certain it had the least public notice, the Obama White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy quietly issued its estimates for poppy-heroin production. In 2012, the office estimates that Mexico had 23,000 acres in poppy production. By 2014, that number had risen to 61,600 acres, far more than double in four years. With no indication that the Mexican government is aggressively burning poppy fields, it seems likely that when the numbers for 2016 come in, they will easily cross the 300 percent mark in just five years. As the office notes in its report, “Mexico remains a major producer and supplier to the U.S. market of heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs and is a major transit country for about 85 percent of the cocaine sold in the United States.”

For the cartels, the door is open and it’s party time.

There is no “war on drugs”; there is only a “drug war on us.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in 2014, 10,574 Americans were killed by Mexican heroin, a six-fold increase since 2001. That number is within a few hundred of the American servicemen lost in Vietnam in 1967. At this rate, it will soon exceed those of 1968, the highest level of U.S. deaths during the Vietnam War. And for every American killed in action by heroin, there are tens of thousands of permanently injured — the users themselves, their children and other members of their families. Grandparents who had other plans for their retirement are now raising their grandchildren because their own children are dead or in jail. Easily 100, 000 Americans are killed or injured by Mexican heroin and other drugs every year.

It’s everywhere — the drugs and the associated crime that goes with it. In April, the Albuquerque Journal headlined, “Awash in Mexican Heroin,” and so we are. Also in April, there was a report that Mexican heroin was being sold in the play yard of a Pittsburgh-area Burger King. Also in April, The New York Times headlined, “Crime Spike in St. Louis Traced to Cheap Heroin and Mexican Cartels.” This spring, 29 members of the Mexican cartels were indicted for human-trafficking of young girls in Atascosa County, Texas, just south of San Antonio. The White House report notes, correctly, “The consequences of drug trafficking are felt by the people of both the United States and Mexico through rising levels of violence, crime, substance abuse and related deaths.”

The White House report also correctly refers to “the U.S. market of heroin.” With all of this new poppy production coming on-line, how will the Mexican cartels market it?

President Obama has an answer: Empty the U.S. prison system of those individuals with the requisite skills in marketing illegal drugs. Hundreds of serious drug traffickers, some of whom were facing life sentences, are being turned loose on the communities they once victimized. Almost none of them have any legitimate employment experience but they do know how to run a drug laboratory, distribute drugs, hide them from law enforcement, and generally market the product. It’s coming to a neighborhood near you.

In the debate over “open borders,” most of the border attention has focused on people for whom a lot of us, not just former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, have some level of sympathy. This is particularly true for those of us from South Texas. But it is important to keep in mind that an “open border” of people automatically becomes a broken border of very dangerous things. Heroin is one of them, but not the only one.

This year, 10,000 Americans will be killed by Mexican heroin and tens of thousands more will be permanently disabled. Hillary Clinton has said that her two principle campaign pillars are open borders and gun control. There is another choice. Donald Trump won’t allow 10,000 Americans per year to be killed on his watch. President Obama has and Mrs. Clinton will.

William C. Triplett II is a former political appointee in the first Reagan administration.

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