TUCSON, Ariz. — The surge of asylum seekers is providing a useful distraction for cross-border crime. That's part of the message from the Tucson Sector Chief for Border Patrol.
Border Patrol Tucson Sector Chief Roy Villareal says infrared video released by Border Patrol shows the daily reality for agents: a large group of men, women and children, cross the border through a gap in the fence. They surrender to agents, and ask for asylum.
Chief Villareal says, “So these smugglers understand that our priority becomes the safety of these migrants. And in doing so, they're going to exploit the security gap that exists."
The group of 134 crossed near Sasabe, well west of Tucson. A steep mountain slope stopped the fence at that spot.
Chief Villareal says when agents encounter a large group, they call in more agents. That pulls Border Patrol away from watching other parts of the border.
"And then within miles, you'll see narcotic traffickers come across or other smaller groups of aliens cross, recognizing that there is now a gap in security."
The Chief says it's not coincidence, it's coordination by smuggling networks that see people and drugs as money-making commodities.
"The loophole that exists is that if you're here as a family unit, it will be processed and then eventually released. So we're witnessing both part of smuggling organization and both just as an effort to to play the system is that people are showing up with children that are not their own. Smugglers are renting children to would be illegal aliens. And it's a unfortunately, it's part of this viciousness of the smuggling organizations."
Smugglers use a wide range of methods like an ultralight aircraft found May 23 with a half million dollars in fentanyl and meth.
Chief Villareal says Homeland Security worked with Mexico to raid sites in Mexico that scouts used to warn smugglers when Border Patrol was nearby and he says Mexico has taken steps to reduce the number of migrants.
"So the government of Mexico through the Federal Police has established checkpoints. And that's part of their effort to curtail this flow of illegal migration. The other aspect is the exchange of information in regards to smugglers potential criminal aliens. And then when you look beyond Mexico, and Central America, and even parts of Africa and the Middle East, we have attaches that are working with those governments to help us identify smugglers that are making an effort to traffic people to the United States."
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