Border agents nabbed an illegal immigrant this weekend after he crossed the border into Arizona using an ultralight aircraft, in yet another way technology is changing the face of illegal migration.
The Mexican pilot was detected crossing late Sunday by Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations near Nogales, south of Tucson.
Border Patrol agents then tracked the aircraft for nearly an hour until it made an apparent crash landing. The 39-year-old pilot had abandoned the ultralight, but agents eventually found him hiding in a nearby wash.
He’s being held for violating immigration law, authorities said.
Ultralights are small, compact aircraft that usually flow low and slow.
Local sheriff’s departments in Arizona have long warned of ultralights, drones and other technology used by smugglers to get drugs across the border in their state, where the terrain is particularly vulnerable to those devices.
The government has struggled to come up with a way to combat small aircraft.
In 2017, agents in California managed to spot a drone crossing the border and tracked it to its landing point. They arrested a 25-year-old man who they said was on hand to pick up a 13-pound load of methamphetamine transported by the drone.
One former Arizona sheriff suggested shooting down unauthorized aircraft, but federal officials say that’s probably an impossible policy to impose.
Figuring out the origins of an aircraft isn’t easy, and firing into the sky is fraught with risk.
“Those are real challenges,” one member of Congress told The Washington Times in 2017.
CBP said it nabbed another ultralight on May 25, when it found one carrying 143 pounds of methamphetamine and 200 grams of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl.
The pilot escaped in that incident, which also occurred south of Tucson.
In 2017, agents in California spotted an ultralight breach U.S. airspace and tracked it until it landed in a farm field near Holtville. They seized the aircraft but didn’t find the pilot, and doubted it was being used for drug smuggling because of the way it was configured.