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ilbegone 10-31-2009 08:28 AM

New tack in drug war sends some back south
New tack in drug war sends some back south


Mexicans caught in U.S. being returned

By Randal C. Archibold
October 31, 2009

NOGALES, Ariz. — In a break with a longstanding drug enforcement practice, authorities in the United States and Mexico have agreed to have some Mexicans caught smuggling drugs into the United States returned to Mexico for prosecution.

Last weekend, for the first time, a suspected smuggler, found at the border with 44 pounds of marijuana hidden in his car, was turned over to Mexican prosecutors. He could be prosecuted under Mexican law for felony export violations and other charges.

The new approach is a step toward resolving a nettlesome problem at the border: Often, Mexicans caught smuggling drugs do not face prosecution in the United States.

The reasons vary, but U.S. federal prosecutors in the Southwest have often rejected cases involving relatively small amounts of drugs, usually less than 500 pounds of marijuana, because of the large volume of those cases and limited resources to handle them. In recent years, prosecutions for immigration violations have surged while drug prosecutions have declined.

Under the new arrangement, agreed upon several weeks ago, authorities in the United States said they would closely monitor the cases referred to Mexico.

Dennis Burke, the U.S. attorney in Arizona, described the border agreement as a sign of “our effort to enhance cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico on prosecuting drug trafficking cases.”

The new approach is being tested on cases arising from the Nogales border crossing, the busiest in Arizona and a hotbed of drug smuggling. If deemed a success, it may be expanded to other border cities. The Nogales crossing was chosen, officials said, because its controlled setting makes it easier to prove to Mexican prosecutors that any suspected smugglers crossed into the United States with the contraband.

The first referral involved Eleazar González Sánchez, 27, of Sonora state. He was detained, Customs and Border Protection officers said, after they found the marijuana hidden in a compartment in the trunk of the car he was driving.

In the fiscal year ending last month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement opened 646 drug smuggling cases arising from the Nogales port of entry. It was not clear how many were referred to prosecutors.


Jeanfromfillmore 10-31-2009 03:56 PM

Let's keep an eye on this one. Who knows, maybe Mexico with do the right thing and come down hard on these smugglers. But I'm not holding my breath.

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