Desert Invasion - U.S.

Southern Border Sheriffs Outgunned by Drug Cartels

By Kevin Mooney, CNS News

Drug cartels operating along the southwestern U.S. border are a "country unto themselves" with intelligence capabilities, weaponry and communications equipment that far exceed the resources made available to local law enforcement in the U.S., according to sheriffs who have organized a new border security coalition.

Sheriff Leo Samaniego of El Paso County, Texas, told Cybercast News Service that the same infrastructure that facilitates illegal immigration from Mexico creates enormous opportunities for heavily armed criminal enterprises like drug cartels and terrorists.

"A lot of people make their living transporting illegal aliens," Samaniego said. "The 'coyotes' [as human smugglers are called] get them across the border but there is a network of individuals involved in transporting them once they get to safe houses."

The same methods of concealment and transportation are being exploited by the drug cartels, Samaniego explained.

Though immigration violations technically fall within the purview of the federal government, Samaniego says the local officials must often bear the full force of the crimes that attach themselves to illicit border crossings....

Sheriff's deputies are advised to "back off," Samaniego told Cybercast News Service, when they see well armed individuals from cartels and other criminal organizations....

The weaponry used by the cartels includes machine guns, grenades and grenade launchers, Gonzalez said, adding that the cartels also have expertise in the use of explosives....

"Operation Linebacker" was launched in September 2005 and holds great promise in the eyes of local law enforcement. Its central objective is to maximize resources on the state and local level. Since the operation went into effect, sheriffs have observed a significant reduction in both illegal immigration and various criminal activities.

"The results have been outstanding," Samaniego said.

Samaniego said that, within just a few weeks after the operation began, some problem areas for illegal immigration in the Del Rio region experienced as much as a 75-percent drop in the crime rate....

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