Inland border patrol checkpoints vital for stemming the tide of drugs and illegal migrants into the country have been closed for months as officers are diverted to admin duties, sources told The Post.
“You’re keeping the agents from doing their job; that’s how drugs fan out to other places,” Arizona’s Yuma County Supervisor Martin Porchas told The Post noting how three roadside checkpoints in the area are shuttered.
“That has an impact on the whole United States because drugs, once they pass the checkpoints, that’s it.”
The checkpoints are stationed 25 to 100 miles north of the US-Mexico border and act as a second line of defense. Sources explained how once people smugglers or drug runners make it past the international border they start to let their guard slip and an extra checkpoint can often catch them out.
Drugs are flowing through Arizona. In October 2022, an Arizona Department of Public Safety traffic stop yielded a haul of 52 pounds of suspected fentanyl pills and 16 pounds of suspected fentanyl powder, which had been smuggled from Mexico. The state’s Nogales border crossing reported earlier in January it had already seized more fentanyl in the last three months than the whole of the previous financial year.
The inland checkpoints are also good for trapping migrants who have slipped over the border and are attempting to make their way further into the US in private cars or on commercial buses.
If immigration officers notice suspicious behavior, they can also search cars for drugs at any of the 110 centers nationwide. Yuma has been overrun with asylum-seeking migrants since April of last year and it is often among the busiest points along the southern border for migrants entering the US.
“Since apprehensions have exploded, I can’t even remember the last time [the checkpoint] was open,” National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd explained, which would make it almost a year since the inland checkpoints were last manned.
The Border Patrol agency has been understaffed for years — a problem exacerbated by the on-going border crisis, which has seen at least two million people flood into the country throughout 2022, creating mountains of paperwork and diverting officers to the front lines.
The department has been able to cheat the shortfall by borrowing workers from less busy parts of the country and currently agents from Texas are being asked to volunteer for 30-day deployments in Yuma.
A spokesman refused to tell The Post how long the Arizona checkpoints have been closed, but pointed out the majority of migrants who arrive in Yuma don’t attempt to sneak into the country undetected but seek out federal agents so they can surrender to them and ask for asylum. They then have to be detained while they are evaluated and either rejected and sent back across the border or processed and given a court date to pursue and asylum claim.
“Checkpoints are opened and closed for operational considerations,” said Border Patrol Public Affairs Officer John Mennell. “They make manpower deployments based on the operational situation.”
Inland checkpoints in California and Texas remain open and manned. Even with more forces tackling narcotic smuggling in the latter state through Operation Lone Star, law enforcement are still seizing huge amounts of narcotics, in particular fentanyl, of which just two milligrams can be a lethal dose.
“For us to seize over 356 million lethal doses statewide [since March 2021], that’s significant, because we don’t have the luxury of being at a port of entry and having x-ray machines,” Texas Department of Public Safety Lt. Chris Olivarez recently told The Post.