- - Tuesday, December 15, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

On Dec 7, Pearl Harbor Day, the Police Department in Austin, Texas, pulled over Richard Martinez, age 44. He was driving on Interstate 35 in a 2001 Dodge Ram pickup with Iowa license plates. After a K-9 unit pointed the way, police discovered that the pickup’s gas tank had been modified to transport liquid methamphetamine. Because meth is heavier than gasoline and the two don’t combine, the vehicle’s fuel pump was altered to draw only off the top of the tank, leaving, in this case, 50 kilograms, worth $4 million, of liquid meth in the bottom. Mr. Martinez’s mug shot shows a powerfully built man with gang tattoos across his chest.

Three days earlier, sheriff’s deputies in rural Fayette County, Texas, stopped another Dodge pickup for a routine traffic infraction on Interstate 10 between San Antonio and Houston. The Canine Unit led the officers to a similarly modified gasoline tank and another 50 kilograms worth $4 million in liquid meth in the bottom. Rodolfo Hernandez, 29, and his mother, Francisca Hernandez, both Mexican nationals, were arrested.

In March, Hector Lopez-Monzon from Guatemala was convicted of attempting to smuggle 350 kilos of liquid meth across the U.S.-Mexico border in a tractor-trailer. This would be worth more than $20 million on the street. He received a sentence of 24 years in the U.S. federal penitentiary and will be deported at the end of his term.

In November the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) released a new report saying that methamphetamine is beginning to rival heroin as both a drug of choice and a smuggling concern. Cheap precursors are coming into Mexico from China via the new ports the Chinese have built on Mexico’s West Coast. After the meth has been mass-produced into a liquid form by the cartels and smuggled across the South Texas border, it is turned into the crystal form at various illicit labs in the United States. As the Houston Chronicle recently reported, in its city, “the drug has become wildly popular.” The DEA reported that meth seizures from 2013 to 2014 were up 90 percent in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, 136 percent in the middle area and 245 percent in the area around El Paso. It’s anyone’s guess what the ratio of seizures to successful smuggling is, but meth seems to be plentiful and cheap.

On Nov. 16, I recounted in The Washington Times the experience my South Texas high school classmates had last year when they came across Uzi-armed drug traffickers on a remote ranch. The scheme is to move the drugs through the South Texas brush, past the Border Patrol and DEA checkpoints. From there, the distribution lines lead to the interstates and anywhere from Vermont to Oregon, if we can judge from the wave of overdose tragedies impacting American young people. In order to avoid any misunderstandings, the leader of Mexico’s Gulf Cartel covering the lower Rio Grande Valley wants everyone to know his heavily armed thugs are just drug traffickers, not terrorists. I’m glad that’s been cleared up.

Last week, ABC was the first to show photos of the San Bernardino, Calif., mass murders passing through security at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

How do these killers possibly relate to the problem of meth and heroin coming over the South Texas border?

It begins with the fundamental policy question of open borders versus no open borders. If the border is broken, then the modern transportation systems — air, rail and road — in the United States and Western Europe come into play automatically, and it’s almost impossible to stop dangerous people and dangerous things from spreading all over the country, sometimes within 24 hours. Two terrorists enter the country in Chicago and commit mass murder in California 1,700 miles away with nothing in between to stop them. O’Hare is one of the busiest airports in the country with domestic connecting flights to ultimately every state in the union. It was just happenstance that they took 14 innocent lives in San Bernardino and not some other quiet community.

Looking at Texas and the federal interstate system, I-10, the major southern east-west highway, for example, begins in Southern California passes through El Paso, San Antonio and Houston and dead-ends at I-95 in Jacksonville, Fla. I-35, the major mid-continent north-south route, begins in Laredo, Texas, passes through San Antonio, Austin and Dallas. Continuing on through Des Moines, Iowa, it ends in Duluth, Minn. Between those two highways, you can reach almost anywhere in the country in around three or four days of steady driving. A tough-looking drug trafficker hauling $4 million worth of meth in a truck with Iowa plates traveling on I-35 doesn’t look like a local boy.

Secure the border first.

William C. Triplett II is former chief Republican counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.


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