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Attack of the clones: Mexican drug smugglers using counterfeit border patrol vehicles

by Christopher A. Guzman, published

Illegal drug traffickers and alien smugglers from Mexico are never running out of innovative ways to accomplish their goals.  Concerning illegal operations taking place across the border, these individuals are always looking to stay one step ahead of immigration enforcement officials in executing their logistics. In a Washington Examiner report, drug traffickers are now utilizing a new type of deception in their operations, with a cunning twist.

This includes them now using cloned versions of border patrol cars to slip under the radar of border enforcement.  It’s apparent that the story is relevant to all border states like California as they deal with problems similar in size and scope.

The news report also says that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sent a warning to border enforcement officials to be wary of cloned vehicles as they can potentially mistake the them as legitimate border patrol agents.

As long as such clone operations are occurring, the safety of Border Patrol enforcement officials is compromised, according to an official cited in the news report.  According to an alert from DHS, the new tactic is considered a “significant incident” report and one that poses a “significant problem.”  The report comes also from documents obtained exclusively by the Examiner.

The cloned border patrol cars used by illegal traffickers are not the only instance of deception used by the black market cross-border operations.  The San Jose Mercury News also reported that federal agents raided a Phoenix shuttle service company after being tipped that the vehicles were used in illegally smuggling immigrants.  The shuttle services apparently put out ads in Arizona, New Mexico, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. 

The Examiner report about drug traffickers comes at a particularly interesting timing considering a new effort by DHS.  According to the official Department of Homeland Security’s blog (April 15), Mexican drug trafficking organizations represent the “greatest organized crime threat to the United States today.”

The conclusion comes from evaluating the National Drug Threat Assessment 2009, which is also cited in the DHS blog.  DHS said that drug trafficking organizations (DTO’s) threaten various sectors of the United States, among these the “economy,” “communities,” and “children.”

In an effort to curtail the DTO’s efforts and to prioritize the fight against them, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reached an agreement with the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic of Mexico to officially collaborate to suppress DTO’s.  The new agreement is known as the Illegal Drug Program (IDP).

As it applies currently, the DHS blog states that traffickers smuggling drugs through El Paso entry points will be prosecuted and imprisoned in Mexico (as opposed to the United States authorities prosecuting per prior policy).

It is far too early to assess the effectiveness of new enforcement measures especially considering the corruption factor notorious in Mexican law enforcement.

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