Skip to comments.Agents try to battle drive-through smugglers
Posted on 07/21/2003 11:45:57 PM PDT by AZ GRAMMY
Agents try to battle drive-through smugglers
BY LOUIE VILLALOBOS, Staff Writer Jul 21, 2003
When the El Centro sector of the U.S. Border Patrol put barriers along Interstate 8 to stop vehicles from illegally entering the United States near the Imperial Sand Dunes recreation area, the smugglers moved part of their operation and the dangers it brings to Yuma, agents said.
Large concrete blocks prevent vehicles from Los Algodones, Baja Calif., from entering the United States. Photo by Alfred J. Hernandez Now, after the Yuma sector put up their own barriers near Andrade, Calif., the smugglers have alternated between the desert area east of San Luis, Ariz., and the Colorado River, said William Robbins, spokesman for the Yuma Border Patrol.
"They keep looking for a soft place to cross," Robbins said. "So we have to let them know we are here."
As of early July, there had been 671 drive throughs in the Yuma area this fiscal year 135 were apprehended, 267 returned to Mexico and 269 got away, Robbins said.
Agents said the reason vehicles get away involves a combination of several factors, such as when agents terminate a pursuit for safety reasons or when agents find fresh tire prints that are unaccounted for.
Robbins said smugglers normally load up 4-wheel drive vehicles with either illegal immigrants or drugs or a combination and then head for the border. He said smugglers use vehicles that can carry large loads, such as sport utility vehicles.
Robbins said agents had recovered 55 stolen vehicles that were used in drive throughs this year. Of those, 60 percent were stolen out of California with most of that percentage coming from San Diego, he said.
Agents said one of the main concerns with the drive throughs is the high potential for vehicle accidents involving everyone from law enforcement officers to the motoring public.
"If someone driving down the interstate doesn't see one of these trucks coming, it could be a really bad accident," said Maria Martinez, spokeswoman for the El Centro Border Patrol sector. In January, agents were involved in a chase that began when a pickup drove through the sand dunes and ended after the truck ran an officer's car off the road, sideswiped a Jeep and crashed into a light pole. That vehicle was carrying 27 illegal immigrants and was one of two to enter illegally that night.
Martinez said the barriers her sector began putting out in 2001 have cut the number of drive throughs by more than 75 percent over the past three years in an area where smugglers would routinely jump on Interstate 8 and drive the wrong way to avoid being followed. Also, she said, people driving down the interstate don't expect an SUV to crash through the wire fence between the dunes and the interstate.
In the east Yuma desert, the concerns are more for the lives of the illegal immigrants themselves.
Robbins said the vehicles often break down in the desert and the smugglers make the illegal immigrants push the vehicle, get out to fix a flat tire or walk the rest of the way. He said smugglers have been seen carrying cans of fix-a-flat or spare tires in preparation for the rough terrain.
"When they can't fix the vehicle, they make the people walk the rest of the way," he said. "And they normally don't know where they're going."
A drive through the desert with Robbins showed several routes that go directly from the border to Yuma-area roads, such as Foothills Boulevard or Avenue B. On the Mexican side, Robbins said smugglers use truck stops or cafes to gather a group before literally crashing through the fence.
"They used to ooze from there," Robbins said, pointing to a Mexican cafe known by agents as a gathering point for smugglers.
Because agents have been able to identify gathering points on the Mexican side, Robbins said the Yuma Border Patrol's Mexican Liaison Unit has been able to work with Mexican authorities in getting a head start on drive throughs.
Mexican officials have said because the Mexican highway used by smugglers is less than 50 yards from the border, the San Luis area is perfect for a quick entry. So if they can't reach the vehicle before it crosses, they often alert Border Patrol agents once it crosses the border.
"Every time we have called (the Border Patrol), they have caught the vehicle," said Oscar Romo, director of the San Luis Rio Colorado, Son., Institute of Migration.
Still, the drive throughs continue and agents said they expect the trend to increase over the rest of this summer because it gives smugglers a way to cross their clients without exposing them to the heat. --- Louie Villalobos can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6858.
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It's a shame some of the more prolific and knowledgable posters on border and immigration issues are no longer here.
"How many terrorists have crossed the border this year?"
Good question. Many people still have a hard time understanding that it's not just "hard working, family oriented, peaceful" Hispanics crossing the borders illegally. I recently pointed out to someone that John Malvo is an illegal and they responded, "Oh no, he's not Mexican, he's Jamaican."
That is Unbelievable! Look how much we've let the Liberals define the debate! It's time to flood our information channels as much as we can...
Indeed. Why, I shudder to think how much more I would be paying for strawberries if, say, a native American high school boy was picking them! Seriously, it's amazing what passes for truth with the bread and circus crowd (your average liberal).