Last updated: April 6, 2020
It affects the US job market, tax spending, crime statistics, and now, illegal immigration may be contributing to a dangerous American epidemic: heroin addiction. Opiates may be the most addictive and dangerous available on the black market in the form of prescription medication already, but drug cartels in Mexico are using any means necessary to smuggle drugs across the border, including placing them in the hands of willing and even unwilling illegal immigrants.
Using people to serve drug users
Cartels in Mexico aren’t simply threatening people to do their dirty work. There is a surge in production because there is a surge in demand for the drug, so cartels sought out a ready-made avenue for their product. Helping illegal immigrants cross the border gives them expendable couriers. The help is only offered when the person agrees to carry drugs. While marijuana may have once been the “drug of choice”, the Mexican government is reporting heroin production at record rates. America is the one with the epidemic, however.
Borders wide open
The highest profile cases of drug busts seem to take place at border crossings and ports of entry. Most of the drugs are crossing in mainly isolated deserts in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas now takes place at border crossings. “Coming across the border is the easiest way. You cannot imagine how easy it is to cross the border. You would be shocked at how open our borders are down here,” says Hector Garza, president of the Laredo, Texas chapter of the National Border Patrol Council. “Every single illegal alien that comes into the country goes through the hands of a drug cartel.”
Cartels taking advantage of the dramatic increase in illegal immigration is. The results of these drug tactics are horrifying and tragic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from opiate overdoses in the United States have nearly quadrupled from 2002 to 2013. Since 2013, the Department of Homeland Security has seized 75 percent more money, 31 percent more drugs, and 64 percent more weapons, but claims to have seen a 36 percent decrease in illegal immigration attempts, as measured by Border Patrol apprehensions. If less are coming over, they’re more dangerous. It’s more likely that the cartels are simply getting smarter and more bold because they’re evading capture.
Heroin Equals Crime
It’s estimated that around half of federal criminal cases in 2013 alone were located around the U.S.-Mexico Border—not according to a political campaign, but from numbers released by the US Department of Justice. Even though half may sound like a fair figure, it really isn’t when one considers how much crime is in the U.S. as a whole. Here comes the interesting part.
A majority of these federal convictions were immigration related—around 38.6 percent of all federal cases—while drug-related crimes were a little over half of that. Other crimes, such as weapons smuggling, made up smaller percentages as well. Drug smugglers could make up around 20 percent of illegal immigrants. Those numbers only include the ones convicted.
Illegal immigration isn’t the cause of the rise in heroin use. Heroin use is being exponentially affected by illegal immigration. Those two statements are not mutually exclusive. While much of the US border lies unsecured, undocumented immigrants will be able to continue to flood the country with illegal drugs thanks to cartels openly operating and in some cases controlling parts of the border.
“When we talk about securing the border, it’s not just about stopping illegal immigration,” says Garza. “It’s also about stopping dangerous drugs from entering our communities and our schools and getting into the hands of kids and affecting family members.”