Fox News reports that at 7:00 PM on Monday, a Border Patrol agent on watch near the border east of Nogales, Ariz., encountered a group of apparent illegal migrants, one of whom attacked the agent with a knife. The agent apparently suffered multiple stab wounds before he shot and killed his assailant; the agent was airlifted to a local hospital, where his condition is unknown. Numerous law-enforcement entities, including the FBI, are investigating the incident. They will likely determine that the border is a dangerous place, not least of all for the Border Patrol.
Tucson Border Patrol Chief Roy D. Villareal tweeted out the following, confirming the Fox News reporting:
— Roy D. Villareal (@USBPChiefTCA) September 22, 2020
CBP has been delinquent in updating its statistics on assaults on Border Patrol agents since FY 2018, but the agency was pretty busy last year with the migrant surge, so I will give them a break. In FY 2018, there were 683 assaults on agents in 379 separate incidents (one incident can result in multiple assaults), down (sort of) from 783 assaults in 324 separate incidents in FY 2017. That decrease is likely cold comfort to the 683 agents who were assaulted in FY 2018.
Many of those incidents involve migrants (or smugglers) throwing rocks at agents; I personally got to experience that in 2006 in Calexico, only the rock was a cinder block. Or attempting to tackle them when they are intercepted, as happened near Campo, Calif., in January. Or striking them (that happened near Lukeville, Ariz., in December). Also in December, a suspected smuggler tried to run an agent over with his car.
Fortunately, stabbings and shootings of agents are rare. But the stakes along the border are high, and getting higher. Even with the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, drug cartels are sending more "hard drugs" — and in particular methamphetamine and the deadly drug fentanyl — into the United States.
CBP officers at the ports have already seized twice as much meth in FY 2020 (through August, with a month to go in that fiscal year) than they did in FY 2019, and almost 30 percent more fentanyl (3,202 pounds — enough to kill more than 726 million people).
And as I noted recently, Border Patrol seizures of hard drugs at the border and interior checkpoints are also up for FY 2020: 13,580 pounds of cocaine (16 percent more than in all of FY 2019), 19,053 pounds of meth (32 percent more), and 707 pounds of fentanyl (a 212-percent increase).
With fewer migrants to apprehend, Border Patrol has more resources to seize those drugs — but intercepting the drug trade comes with greater dangers than apprehending migrants who are planning to surrender in order to file (often questionable) credible fear claims.
Interestingly, Border Patrol seizures of cocaine are 36 percent as high as they are at the ports, and fentanyl seizures by agents on the line are 22 percent what they are at the ports. And that is just the cocaine and fentanyl that agents can intercept — the border is long, and can use a larger Border Patrol presence.
Carrying a pound of cocaine or fentanyl over the border is not tough (Wyatt and Billy, the motorcycling protagonists in the 1969 film Easy Rider, were cocaine smugglers), but it is lucrative. The street value of cocaine in the United States is $96 a gram. That is more than $43,540 a pound. A kilogram of uncut fentanyl costs $6,000, but can be sold for $1.6 million — or just under $725,750 per pound.
Needless to say, a smuggler would be reluctant to drop a load worth that kind of money and scoot back across the border, as marijuana mules are apt to do. Not only is there cash on the line for the courier, but the cartels are likely to be displeased at such a loss. Evasion — or worse, assault — of a Border Patrol agent becomes a lot more likely.
These statistics also call into question the claim that drugs "almost universally come through the ports of entry along the southern border".
And the pandemic has only increased the desire in the United States for more illicit narcotics. The AMA reports that: "More than 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related mortality as well as ongoing concerns for those with a mental illness or substance use disorder in counties and other areas within the state."
Why? As the Association of American Medical Colleges explains: "More than 20 million people in the United States have a substance use disorder. Now, Covid-19 has left many locked down, laid off, and flooded with uncertainty." That is bad for them, bad for America, and will ultimately be bad for the Border Patrol. Until the United States (and the world) gets back to normal, expect border drug seizures — and assaults — to increase. Cartels don't care, and they know an opportunity when they see one.