An illegal immigrant “Dreamer” in the U.S. under protection of the Obama-era DACA deportation amnesty was arrested Tuesday on charges of trying to smuggle more than 17 pounds of methamphetamine through a Border Patrol checkpoint.
Jose Rafael Arreguin-Maguellal, 22, admitted he was carrying the meth and said he was going to get paid $800 for driving it to Los Angeles, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent said in an affidavit accompanying the charges.
Border Patrol agents identified Mr. Arreguin’s car as he drove up to the checkpoint on Highway 86 south of the Salton Sea in Southern California. Mr. Arreguin told the agents he was covered by DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, then began stumbling over his words as they asked him where he was coming from.
At the same time, a drug-sniffing dog alerted agents to the car, a 2013 Kia Optima, the affidavit says.
After receiving permission to search the car, agents found 14 packages wrapped in clear plastic inside a box in the trunk, totaling more than 17 pounds. The agents said the load tested positive as meth and had a street value of nearly $35,000.
“Every drug seizure our agents make is an important step forward to secure our streets from dangerous narcotics and dangerous people,” said Chief Patrol Agent Gloria I. Chavez.
Mr. Arreguin is the latest in a string of DACA recipients to have been snared in legal troubles along the U.S.-Mexico border this year.
A number of DACA recipients have been charged with attempting to smuggle illegal immigrants into the U.S.
The arrests come as the fate of the DACA program remains in doubt.
Created by President Barack Obama in 2012, the program is protecting hundreds of thousands of people from deportation, giving them the chance to hold a job, claim some taxpayer benefits and gain a foothold in U.S. society.
President Trump announced a phaseout of the program last year.
Several federal courts have ruled the phaseout is likely illegal and have blocked it from taking effect, but another court recently deemed DACA itself illegal.
For now, the program remains in effect, but the cases are speeding their way through the federal appeals courts and are likely to reach the Supreme Court soon.