Acting Commissioner Speaks, Agent Honored, as Police Chiefs Gathered
A U.S. Border Patrol agent was named Officer of the Year and CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan described how hard drug seizures have spiked as marijuana seizures fell over the last fiscal year in his remarks Oct. 27 at the International Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference and exposition in Chicago.
That influx of dangerous drugs is a key reason why U.S. Customs and Border Protection must remain vigilant, he pointed out. At ports of entry, heroin seizures were up 8%, while fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine seizures shot up to 30%, statistics that match what many communities beyond the border are experiencing.
Gangs that make up much of the transnational criminal organizations are linked by networks that operate throughout the country and typically oversee domestic distribution down to the street level, he explained. In addition to drugs, they’re responsible for trafficking firearms and people. “Border arrests of criminals and gang members nationwide totaled 976 in fiscal 2018, up 20%,” Acting Commissioner Morgan said.
To keep their contraband flowing across the border, criminals rely on sophisticated and clever conveyances. In San Ysidro, California, officers discovered 77 pounds of fentanyl under the floorboards of an SUV. In Otay Mesa, California, 134 pounds of cocaine lurked in the gas tanks of a semi truck and $500,000 worth of meth and fentanyl was packed into a modified ultralight aircraft abandoned in the desert after crossing from Mexico. The criminals also take advantage of the humanitarian crisis on the Southwest border using groups of families and children to divert attention from their smuggling activities.
Acting Commissioner Morgan cited fentanyl, one of the most potent and difficult to seize illicit drug because the substance is easily concealed in small packages and smuggled though international mail and express consignments. Much of the fentanyl shipments come from China. Recently, he was in Beijing and reached out to Chinese customs officials to work in partnership with CBP to crackdown on these mailings.
While difficult to make a direct correlation, fentanyl seizures in the mail have declined significantly, he said.
Meanwhile, Border Patrol Agent Jonathan Morales was honored for pursuing a gunman who burst into a Poway, California, synagogue back in April spewing anti-Semitic rants and opening fire on the congregation. One worshiper died and several were wounded. Morales, who was off-duty and attending the service, immediately confronted the attacker and fired at him as he fled. For his courage, Morales was chosen Officer of the Year.
In support of CBP’s efforts, President Trump signed into law the International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology Act, better known as the INTERDICT Act. This gives CBP the money to research new ways to detect and intercept synthetic opioids.
President Trump keynoted the convention and recognized the Acting Commissioner, Agent Morales, the Border Patrol and the entire agency for working to keep America safe and announced his administration will support law enforcement with $600 million in surplus military equipment.
“We are all safer because we get out every single day to do something better than ourselves,” Acting Commissioner Morgan said when he shared the podium with the President. “Thank you to all who put on a badge and protect our country.” That protection also calls for a more fortified border, he noted. “We will be building 400 miles of that big, beautiful wall by 2020,” he said, and acknowledged the president’s support for law enforcement. “When he says he loves us, it’s heartfelt and he means it, and we’re stronger for it.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between official ports of entry. CBP is charged with securing the borders of the United States while enforcing hundreds of laws and facilitating lawful trade and travel.