The number of people sneaking across the border through local smuggling routes is on the decline, even as traffickers in the area become increasingly sophisticated, according to officials from the U.S. Border Patrol’s Murrieta station.
“It’s not just mom and pop [coming across the border]. We arrest drug dealers and traffickers,” said Socorro Donadio, community relation’s officer for the Murrieta station, which has one of the agency’s largest areas. “The [cartels] invent new ways of coming across, of hiding people or drugs.”
“You never know on a daily basis what will happen,” she said.
Donadio’s comments came Monday during the annual meeting of Southwest Riverside County chapter 478 of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees organization (NARFE). The non-profit was founded in 1921 to help protect retirement benefits of federal workers and their families. There are 92 chapters in California.
And while the decline in illegal cross-border trafficking is well documented nationwide, the fact the retirees wanted a keynote speaker from the Border Patrol shows the economy hasn’t entirely obscured immigration as a local priority.
“It’s important to know about our borders,” said Nick Shestople, president of the local NARFE chapter. “We need to know exactly who is coming and going and what is being done about it.”
The Border Patrol was established in May of 1924 and has been present in the Temecula and Murrieta Valley since its inception. The Murrieta station serves one of the largest areas, covering 3,820 square miles from the 91 Freeway to the Escondido area.
“The goal of the Border Patrol is to gain, maintain and expand operational control of the border utilizing the right combination of personnel, technology, infrastructure and a new way of thinking,” said Donadio.
This includes hiring new agents, 18 thousand last year alone, fencing, more lighting and adding cameras to different locations.
The result is a trend downward in the number of those attempting to cross the border, whether for personal gain or drug trafficking.
Last year, agents in the local zone arrested 2,832 undocumented persons, 211 of which were designated OTM (Other Than Mexican).
Many arrested are American citizens, who have been offered payment to transfer drugs or drive a car across the border.
The statistics offer reason for optimism, Donadio said. While so far this year the amount of marijuana seized has been higher (she equates this to two specific busts), seizures of other contraband like cocaine and methamphetamines have been lower.
Official statistics for this year won’t be tallied until later this month.
“Border awareness is critical,” said Donadio. “As drug cartels and other criminals find new ways to cross the border, we have to be ready to combat them.”
For more information and statistics on the Border Patrol and immigration, visit honorfirst.com.