A celebratory mood was almost unavoidable Thursday as officials with Customs and Border Protection pulled back a black cloth and unveiled 650 pounds of methamphetamine and fentanyl before a waiting press at the Mariposa Port of Entry.
Worth $4.6 million, the stacks of bags containing powder and pills included the largest fentanyl seizure in CBP history and the third-largest meth bust at an Arizona port of entry.
President Trump even sent out a congratulatory — if confused — tweet: “Our great U.S. Border Patrol Agents made the biggest Fentanyl bust in our Country’s history. Thanks, as always, for a job well done!”
If the president hadn’t made the border his most pressing concern, he could almost be forgiven for the mix-up. The Border Patrol, with agents dressed in green, is also a part of Customs and Border Protection, but the seizure was made by officers with the Office of Field Operations, the men and women at the ports dressed in blue.
While the president continues to push for a wall on the border, in part to stop illegal drugs from coming through, he neglects to talk about the ports of entry, or about how 85 percent of all hard drugs — including cocaine, heroin and meth — seized by CBP over the last six years were stopped at legal crossings.
Just this past fiscal year, customs officers seized 47,945 pounds of cocaine, 4,813 pounds of heroin, 67,292 pounds of methamphetamine and 1,357 pounds of fentanyl. Compare that to Border Patrol agents, who seized 6,423 pounds of cocaine, 532 pounds of heroin, 10,382 pounds of methamphetamine and 332 pounds of fentanyl.
While only three of the 17 lawmakers on the bipartisan congressional conference committee currently negotiating a legislative solution on border security come from border states (none are from Arizona), it is imperative that the committee understands the facts and provides more resources to the ports.
Hiring more officers and improving technology will not only help better detect trafficking, it would also speed up the crossing of people and goods. As any businessperson in Arizona will tell you, the border doesn’t mean crisis, it means opportunity.
In 2017, more than 4.4 million cargo trucks passed through the nation’s ports of entry, along with 19.5 million pedestrians and almost 36 million passenger vehicles. During the same period, Arizona port crossings included more than 400,000 trucks, 7 million pedestrians and 9.5 million passenger vehicles, with Mexican visitors spending about $2.5 billion a year in the state — about half of that in Pima County.
These security and economic realities are missing from the inaccurate and alarmist imagery Trump peddles in his political quest to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
If any legitimate and useful border security progress is to be made, it must be hammered out in an environment of facts and data — not held hostage to a fundamental misunderstanding of the border and border security.