'Rio Grande Valley Agents Stop an Unusual Smuggling Attempt'

A headline that writes itself — and that shows the need for more barriers

By Andrew R. Arthur on May 1, 2020
  • Border Patrol agents on Monday interrupted a smuggling operation in South Texas that involved a motorcycle, a small utility trailer, and four bundles carrying 282 pounds of marijuana.
  • There is no border fencing along that portion of the border.
  • Former ICE Director Tom Homan explained on Wednesday that he believes that more drugs are smuggled across the border between the ports of entry than through those ports, and that barriers stop such drug smuggling. The Rio Grande City incident suggests that is true.

On Tuesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a press release that is clickbait for immigration junkies: "Rio Grande Valley Agents Stop an Unusual Smuggling Attempt". It did not under-deliver, and it underscores the need for more border barriers.

The press release, dateline Edinburg, Texas, is so well written, I have to excerpt it:

US Border Patrol agents assigned to the Rio Grande City station had a not so typical encounter involving a motorcycle, a small utility trailer and marijuana bundles floating across the Rio Grande.

Last night, Rio Grande City Border Patrol Agents seized several bundles of narcotics, along with a motorcycle and an abandoned vehicle associated with the event, near Rio Grande City, Texas. Agents observed the narcotics, the motorcycle, and the small utility trailer being floated across the Rio Grande. When the agents attempted to interdict the smuggling attempt, the subjects swam south into Mexico. The agents seized 4 bundles of marijuana weighing 282 lbs. with an estimated value of $225,752.00.

If you have ever been to Rio Grande City, you will know that the river there is not exceptionally wide. (You can go to my August 2017 post "View of the Border from the Rio Grande Valley and Del Rio" and check out the view from Roma, Texas, a few miles upstream, where the distance across the river is about the same.) It is not clear if the smugglers were using a raft or not, but the trailer probably floats, motorcycles are not so heavy two people could not carry one, and 282 pounds is, well, 282 pounds.

The story is pretty easy to figure out from there. Get to the far side of the river, attach the trailer to the motorcycle, load the dope, and off you go, down U.S. 83 and into the United States. As I explained in that 2017 post:

The landscape changes as you ride down U.S. 83 from McAllen to Roma. Largely absent are the chain restaurants and stores that fill the landscape to the east, replaced by any number of used-car and used-tire stores, road-side "carwashes" (consisting of a shed and a hand-held power washer open to the highway), ice-cream and candy kiosks that keep irregular hours, and small restaurants and food stands, in addition to chain gas station/convenience stores. Only a couple of miles separate the river from the highway along this stretch, much of which consists of large undeveloped properties. It is easy to imagine that any number of people in this area may serve as scouts for smuggling operations, but it would be all but impossible to know who.

In fact, as the river snakes its way around near Rio Grande City, it gets a whole lot closer to U.S. 83, as Google Maps reveals. Only open ground and the Border Patrol separate the river and the highway.

Think whatever you want about marijuana, but it is a Schedule I controlled substance, and trafficking 282 pounds of it is a federal offense that could get you 40 years in jail. That said, it could have been 282 pounds of fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, or any other narcotic: Pick your poison, literally.

And, although CBP plans to build fencing in the area, there is none there now. Float your drugs across the river, evade Border Patrol, and you are all but home free.

In the Center's Immigration Newsmaker discussion with former Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan on Wednesday, Homan noted that "every place they build a border barrier, it has been 100 percent effective. What I mean by that is, it has resulted in less illegal immigration and less drug flow." He continued:

Do not believe when the left keeps saying "Most drugs come through the port of entry so there is no need for a wall, walls are not going to stop drugs" — that is wrong. What people need to understand: More drugs are seized at the ports of entry. ... We don't know what comes between the ports of entry because not every vehicle is stopped and not every backpacker is stopped by the Border Patrol. ... I still say more drugs come between the ports of entry.

If you want proof of Homan's point, just check the CBP press releases, for the headline that writes itself.