Seizures of Southbound Cash Rise at Mexican Border

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Mexican drug cartels rake in billions of dollars in annual profits from the sale of heroin, methamphetamines and other drugs in the U.S., the New York Times reports. The money has to make its way south somehow. Though the cartels sometimes hire legitimate companies to buy goods like silk and ink cartridges and export them to Mexico, where they are sold for pesos, a more common method is to simply pay someone to drive the cash over the border. President Trump has talked about “bad hombres” streaming in from Mexico. Officials say an equal part of the problem is the flow of money going from north to south, a product of Americans’ voracious appetite for illicit drugs.

“It’s the money and the guns that have enabled the cartels to obtain the power they have,” says Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Scott Brown. “I’m a firm believer that if we can keep the cartels from getting their profits, over time, that has a lot more impact than seizing the drugs.” Since 2008, customs officers at ports of entry along the southern border have seized $300 million in cash heading into Mexico in commercial vehicles and passenger cars. Customs officers and border patrol agents say that money, which was found while following up on tips or stumbled upon during random stops, is a small fraction of the actual total. So far this year, seizures of southbound cash are up 48 percent through March: $18.6 million compared with $12.6 million over the same period last year. The officials said the increase was probably because the agency was able to deploy more officers to look for money and guns amid a decline in apprehensions of undocumented migrants on the border.

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