United of Mexican and Canadian international borders,

United States Customs and Border Protection agents
face a magnitude of challenges daily.  These
agents are patrolling 6,000 miles of Mexican and Canadian international
borders, 2,000 miles of coastal waters, and monitoring travelers and cargo
coming through international airports and shipping ports.  Regardless of where Customs and Borders
Protection agents are posted they all have the same mission, ensuring the
safety and security of the United States.  This is done by preventing any possible threat
to the U.S such as terrorist, weapons, trafficking and drug from crossing our
borders. 

            Drug
smuggling is one of the global issues being fought against by many parts of the
world.  Illegal drugs in the United
States create a huge black market industry, an estimated $200-$750 billion a
year in size, with the current decade seeing the largest per person drug usage
per year in American history (Adinolfi, 2013). 
It is a real concern and does not appear to be ending anytime soon.  Drugs continue to pour into the United States
from multiple countries despite the efforts of the Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA), law enforcement agencies, border patrols, and the United
States Government.  Drug smuggling can be
described as the trade of illegal drugs such as Methamphetamine, cocaine,
Marijuana, heroin or oxycodone.  Drug
smuggling is a multistage activity that lies in the cultivation, manufacturing,
distribution, control of markets, selling of illegal drugs and gaining profits
by these activities. 

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            Illegal
drug abuse costs American society $181 billion a year in health care costs,
lost workplace productivity, law enforcement, and legal costs (“Addiction
Science,” 2013).  The cocaine market
alone in the United States is astronomical. 
The estimated annual value of the cocaine market is 88 billion
dollars.  To put that number into
perspective, that is 3.5 times the combined revenue of the National Football
League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and the
National Hockey League.  It is no
surprise to learn that the United States leads the world in cocaine
consumption.  The market for heroine in
the United States is estimated at 55 billion dollars annually with 22 tons of
heroine consumed per year.  Drug
smuggling in United States is a serious issue, and the United States government
is utterly devoted to fighting against this crime and to stop its expansion all
across the globe.  Since 1971, the United
States has spent an estimated one trillion dollars in its efforts to end the
war on drugs (Desjardins, 2014). 

            With
all the countries around the world that prove to be a threat to the United
States, the southwestern border is the greatest criminal threat to the United
States; with no other groups that are capable of challenging Mexico (“National
Drug Threat Assessment,” 2016).  The
southwestern border is the primary entrance point in to the United States for
most of the illegal drugs being smuggled. 
The most common drugs that are smuggled across the southwestern border
are cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana.  What makes the United States and Mexico
border so popular and vulnerable to drug trafficking is that fact that this is
such a busy border.  There is such a
large capacity of people that pass through this border on a daily basis that is
makes getting drugs though easier.  Additionally,
there is over 2,000 miles of boarder between the United States and Mexico that
include massive remote locations which allows for easier smuggling.  There are several methods used by drug
smugglers to get their products across and into the United States. Some of the
methods used include aircraft, backpackers, couriers, horses, mules, boats,
train, tunnels and automobiles.

            Of
the many methods used for drug smuggling, the most common tactic is
transporting the drugs in vehicles through the United States Ports of
Entry.  This is accomplished by concealing
the drugs in compartments or cut outs within the vehicle.  They are also hidden within legal items being
transported in semi-trucks.  Another
popular tactic used is turning the drugs into a liquid before transporting them
across the border.  Once these drugs have
made it into the United States, they are taken to locations often called stash
houses that are located near the border. 
Once the shipments have made it to a stash house, it is here where the
shipment of drugs is divided into smaller batches and then distributed
throughout the United States. 

            How
is it these criminals can communicate and plan out such a massive and risky
procedure?  Mexican drug smugglers apply
a variation of techniques when communicating their plans.  Some of the communication methods they use
are phones, text messaging, and push-to-talk two-way radios.  However, social media has become the newest
most common form of communication. 
Coupled with these communication methods, smugglers also employ lookouts
as well.  These lookouts are
strategically placed in areas near the border to worn against law enforcement
agencies.  This gives smugglers an
advantage as they can see what is ahead.

            There
are several major drug cartels in the country of Mexico.  The Gulf Cartel in Matamoros, Tamaulipas,
Juarez Cartel in Ciudad Juarez, La Familia Michoacana in Michoacan state, Los
Zetas Cartel in Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, Tijuana/Arellano Felix Cartel based
in Tijuana, and is considered to be the most dominant and powerful drug cartel
in Mexico, Sinaloa Cartel formally led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

            Mexico
is not the only threat to the United States in the war on drug smuggling.  Columbia continues to have an impact as
well.  Columbia has continued to have
control over the production and supply of cocaine that makes its way to the
United States.  However, Columbia relies
on Mexican drug cartels to purchase and distribute their cocaine and even
heroine in to the United States. 
Columbian drug lords maintain personnel throughout Mexico, Central
America, and the Caribbean to ensure their products are making their way to
their planned destinations. 

            The
Dominican is also considered a threat to the United States drug market.  Mexico and Colombia operating along the
Northeast will likely maintain a working relationship with Dominican smugglers
for the retail level distribution of illegal drugs (“National Drug Threat
Assessment,” 2016).  The Dominican
Republic remains to be considered one of the main drug hubs in the Caribbean
for smuggling cocaine and heroin in to the United States

            With such a prominent presence of
drug cartels and variety of ways smugglers get their merchandises across, it
appears almost impossible for them to be stopped.  It is easy for people claim that we need
improvements at the borders.  However,
according to the Department of Homeland Security, within the last 14 years the
United States and Mexico border has received an increase in personnel and
equipment.  There are currently 18,000
agents assigned to the southwest border. 
This is far more than those assigned to the United States and Canadian
border despite the fact their border is double the length.  In addition to the agents on the ground at
the border, there are also 107 aircraft on patrol, 84 boats patrolling the
waters, and eight unmanned aerial systems. 
Moreover, the southern border is monitored constantly by 178 mobile
video surveillance systems, 273 remote video surveillance systems, 12,000
underground sensors, 9,255 night vision goggles, and 600 thermal imaging
devices (DeLuca, 2016).  These efforts by
the United States Border Patrol have not gone unnoticed.  In 2012, the United States Border Patrol
seized more than 5,900 pounds of cocaine and more than 2.2 million pounds of
marijuana at the Mexico border (DeLuca, 2016). 
 

            The
United States is not alone in this fight against drug smuggling.  Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon declared
war on drug cartels immediately after taking office in 2006.  Over the course of his presidential term,
Calderon deployed tens of thousands of military personnel to supplement and, in
many cases, replace local police forces (Lee & Renwick, 2017).  Under Calderon’s presidency, the Mexican
military with the aid of the United States, captured and/or killed 25 of the
most wanted drug lords in Mexico.  The
United States and Mexico are committed to working together against the war on
drugs.  The United States as dedicated
2.5 billion dollars in funding to increase Mexico’s capabilities of battling
drug trafficking.  In 2014, this led to
Mexico celebrating a huge success of the arrest of Joaquin “El Chapo”
Guzman who was considered Mexico’s most powerful drug lord.  Since being sworn into office, President
Donald Trump has made immigration and border security a priority.  President Trump has signed several executive
orders including the building of the wall across the United States and Mexico
border. Also, President Trump as continued to show a priority in ensuring there
are an efficient amount of border patrol agents across the southwest border. 

            When
we think drug smuggling, the first thought that pops in to our heads is Mexico
and South America.  This is basically all
you hear from the media when reporting on drugs coming in to the United
States.  It is seen in the media, movies,
video games and even a subject in some music. 
However, some do not realize that there is a problem with drug
trafficking at our northern border. 
That’s is right, our friendly neighbor to the north is also a threat to
the United States in the war on drugs.  Though
Canada is nowhere the size of a threat as Mexico or South America, drug
smuggling is considered the greatest threat along the United States and
Canadian border. 

            If
we look at a comparison between the Canadian border and the Mexican border, the
numbers are not even close.  In a report
conducted by the Department of Homeland Security, the average arrests made at
the Canadian border over the last five years is about 800, while at the Mexico
border, the arrests are usually in the thousands (Ratnam, 2017.  While cocaine and methamphetamine are being
smuggled from Mexico through the United States in to Canada, fentanyl,
marijuana and ecstasy are being brought in to the United States from
Canada.  having a large volume of
travelers crossing between the border, as well as the large distances between
ports of entry allow for smugglers to get across the border undetected.  However, the most common tactic being used to
get illegal drugs across the northern border in to the United States is private
aircraft.  Drug smugglers use private
planes to fly their shipment across the border, typically flying at a lower
altitude to prevent being picked up by radar. 
In 2005, United States federal agents discovers a 360-foot tunnel used
for drug smuggling.  The tunnel began at
a hut on the Canadian side and ran underground ending 300 feet from the border
on the United States side.  This was the
first ever drug smuggling tunnel discovered between the United States and
Canada. 

            Even
though the United States and Mexico border draw far more attention, the
Department of Homeland Security is just as dedicated to battling drug
trafficking at the United States and Canada border.  Recently the United States Border Patrol has
increased their number of agents along the border.  Unmanned aerial surveillance is also being
used around portions of the border along with surveillance aircraft and video
surveillance towers.  Although the threat
at the northern border is no where near the magnitude of that of the
southwestern border, it still presence its own set of challenges.  The border along the United States and Canada
stretches twice the length of the southwestern border.  Not to mention most of the border is
extremely remote, wooded, and sparsely populated making it very easy to cross the
border undetected.

            There
are several criminal organizations that can be linked to the transportation and
distribution of illegal drugs.  There are
highly organized groups of Vietnamese and other Asian criminal organizations
that are responsible for the trafficking of marijuana in to the United
States.  When it comes to cocaine, the
most predominate transporter and distributors are motorcycle gangs such as the
Hells Angels.  Motorcycle gangs work with
and coordinate with suppliers from Mexico and Columbia in the United States.  These shipments of cocaine normally travel through
British Columbia and Vancouver.    

            Not
all drug smugglers come from bordering countries.  There are plenty of Asian drug smugglers that present
a threat to the United State as well.  Asian
drug traffickers are predominantly a concern on the east coast and the west coast.