Hidden bundles, sophisticated tunnels: how fentanyl crosses the US-Mexico border

A new battle has broken out on the US-Mexico border over the deadliest narcotics law ever. With the help of technology, officials there are working to stem the flow of fentanyl into the United States through extensive searches.

Sixty percent of all fentanyl seized in the United States is found at US-Mexico border crossings in Southern California, according to Marija Marin, port director at the San Ysidro Port of Entry between San Diego and Tijuana.

Over 65,000 vehicles pass through the San Ysidro Port of Entry daily. Marin said he first noticed fentanyl in 2008, and it has skyrocketed since fiscal 2019.

To search for drugs, Border Patrol agents use non-intrusive inspection technology that enables agents to scan as drivers pass by.

“We are looking for packages that were concealed within that vehicle,” Marin told CBS News.

Drug packages can be hidden in various areas including gas tanks. According to Marin, a fentanyl package can be about the size of a brick, and contains over a hundred thousand dollars worth of fentanyl.

assisted by trained dogsBorder Patrol agents may search thousands of vehicles a day.

They are not only looking for where traffickers can hide the drugs, but also who can take them. The trend of using minors at the point of entry has increased in the last few months. Marin said minors who come from “low economic means” are targeted in high schools and junior high.

“These smuggling organizations are offering them for what seems like a lot of money — $500, $1000. And tell them to put it in their pocket, put it in their bag, and cross the border with it, ” He said.

The tunnels are also used to smuggle drugs into the United States. Earlier this year, a Homeland Security investigation revealed a highly advanced tunnel stretching 1,700 feet from Tijuana, Mexico, to Otay Mesa, California.

There was electricity and small train tracks in that tunnel. Authorities don’t know how long it had been going on, who was running it, and how many others like it may have survived.

Marin said even a small amount of fentanyl can affect a community. While it is impossible to find every piece of fentanyl that crosses the border, Marin hopes that the use of modern technology and increased enforcement efforts will help.

“It’s really an effort to leverage both technology, officer instincts, training and intelligence, to really, really stop some of this illegal activity,” she said.

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