A Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) report on Operation Strong Safety shows relatively little inbound smuggling activity associated with the border from the Pecos River to east of Van Horn. Nevertheless, bills in Congress target the Border Patrol’s Big Bend sector with substantial additional security forces and facilities. Some opposition to that plan has been expressed in terms of concern for Big Bend National Park.
Of all the Texas border drug seizures from January 2013 through May 2014, this sector accounted for 3 percent of methamphetamine, 2 percent of marijuana, 1 percent of heroin and 0 percent of cocaine.
Recently there have been interdictions of backpacked marijuana in the Big Bend sector. There are interdictions of drugs at the Ojinaga-Presidio port of entry. Last year, drug vehicle chases and confiscations occurred with some regularity in Pecos County.
The report stated: “According to historical data included in the National Drug Control Strategy Data Supplement, national street-level prices for marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine have decreased from 2008 to 2012, while heroin prices displayed a nearly unchanging trend.”
Regarding people not legally in this country, for the three federal fiscal years 2012 through 2014, the Big Bend sector had the fewest total apprehensions of all the U.S.-Mexico border sectors, barely showing on the bar graph and with no variance among those three years. During that period, the Rio Grande Valley sector replaced the Tucson sector in having the most apprehensions, skyrocketing in FY 2014 with the refugee crisis. Beginning in 2013, Central American women and children fled the chaos of war- and post-war-ravaged areas of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. During that three-year period in the Big Bend sector, “unaccompanied children” and “other than Mexican” apprehensions were again the fewest of any Mexican border sector and literally do not show on the bar graph; that is, were virtually zero.
A 2013 report, on border violence, from The Arizona Republic newspaper read, “With 510 miles of the Rio Grande, the Big Bend sector accounts for almost one fourth of the U.S.-Mexico border; but it has been the least busy southwestern sector for nine of the past 10 years, as measured by apprehensions or by use-of-force incidents. Sectors further east in Texas are more easily accessible via rail from Mexico.”
The full “law enforcement sensitive” version of the DPS report was leaked to the Houston Chronicle newspaper.
The report states: “The Mexican cartels have also been effective in corrupting U.S. law enforcement officials at all levels, which not only facilitates organized crime but undermines the public trust in law enforcement.”
Operation Strong Safety concentrated resources in Starr and Hidalgo counties of the Rio Grande Valley. The DPS report lists limitations of the operation, including: “DPS is understaffed throughout the state, and a sustained deployment of personnel to the border region reduces the patrol and investigative capacity in other areas of the state that are also impacted by transnational crime.”