ICE, Customs & Border Agency Ramps Up Drug Busts

I saw a headline yesterday that said ICE agents arrested 457 people in 83 cities last week in coordinated raids that were part of the largest anti-drug operation the agency has ever conducted. Of the 457 people arrested, 151 were U.S. Citizens.

I checked ICE's website and here's the press release. The headline is "476 gang members, associates and other criminals were put on ICE during Project Big Freeze." Gang members? That's a headline grabber. The key word is "associates" and "other criminals." If you run a car repair shop and your phone number is dialed from a gang member's phone, you can be called "an associate." It's a term that means nothing. If you have a DUI or a theft record, you are an "other criminal."

They throw around the favored phrase de jour: "Transnational criminal street gangs."

"Project Big Freeze is the largest nationwide ICE-led enforcement operation targeting transnational gangs with ties to drug trafficking organizations."

So who'd they get? A cartel leader? A narco-terrorist? Not quite. According to the press release, the three big catches were:[More...]

  • Jose Hernandez-Morales, 31, a Mexican national and member of the Latin Kings, was arrested in Chicago for re-entry of a previously removed alien
  • Serhiy Hudz, 27, who is a Ukrainian national and legal permanent resident, is a member of the Warlocks outlaw motorcycle gang. He was arrested in Philadelphia for parole violations.
  • Amado Arellano, 44, a U.S. citizen and member of the Mexican Mafia, was arrested in San Antonio, Texas, on state charges for parole violations.

Notice there is no mention of drugs or weapons charges, just illegal reentry and parole violations.

The agency assures us that "Nearly 50 percent of those arrested during this operation were members or associates of gangs with ties to drug trafficking organizations in Mexico, South America and Asia." There's that meaningless word again, "associates of."

The release goes on to say that since 2005, when the new information-sharing policies went into effect that allowed various agencies to combine their intel and act together, 16,144 street gang members and associates have been arrested.

  • 202 were gang leaders and 2,898 were MS-13 gang members or associates.
  • 949 firearms were seized
  • 6,805 have been charged criminally
  • 9,339 have been charged with immigration violations and processed for removal.

So, 9,000 of the 16,000 arrested were not charged with crimes. That's a huge number of innocent people to arrest. 9,339 of the 16,000 arrested were simply undocumented residents with civil immigration violations.

As for the danger factor, out of 16,000 arrests they got 1,000 guns. So at least 15,000 of those arrested had no weapons and the number is probably higher since a few of those arrested likely had multiple firearms.

ICE isn't the only Homeland Security agency jumping into the war on drugs. There's the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Here's their stated function:

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 the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.

They too seem to have morphed into the DEA, with glossy pictures and all. Today's headlines:

Terrorist activity? Not one listed in all these busts. The agency says:

During the weekend, CBP officers at the El Paso port of entry made nine additional drug busts, seizing 597 pounds of marijuana. While anti-terrorism is the primary mission of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the inspection process at the ports of entry associated with this mission results in impressive numbers of enforcement actions in all categories.

On non-agency websites the past two days, we have these CBP busts:

Back to CBP, the list of drug busts goes on and on.

Who's watching the terrorists if everybody's watching mom & pop drug traffickers and undocumented residents who haven't committed any cirmes? I guess the DEA, who now thinks it's their job to go to Africa and stop drugs headed not for the U.S. but to Europe.

And so, the massive war on drugs continues, at taxpayer expense.

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    Huge waste of money and resources (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by txpolitico67 on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 10:31:57 AM EST
    A co-worker's husband is moving from Dallas to Uvalde to take a job as a border patrol agent.  He's having HUGE second thoughts as this was told to him by a superior: "there are certain people we turn our heads to because if we pull them over and arrest them, the whole city could shut down."  These drug traffickers put their money in those banks along the TX-Mexico border.  It's a fact of life down there.  It's an open secret (oxymoronic I know) that the drug traffickers yield more influence than our border patrol agents.  Drug use and/or abuse is a mental health and general health issue in the USA, not a legal one. Anytime you make something illegal or prohibitive, crime, violence and other unsavory activities follow.  Look at prohibition.  People are going to do drugs, use prostitutes and whatever else they bloody want.  Legalize it, make it safer and tax it.  Those dollars could be used for the benefit of the greater good.  When we learn to stop criminalizing certain types of behaviour, you will see prison populations go down and budget dollars rise.  That money could SO be going to better uses:  cancer research, green energy, reinvestment in our own country...

    Mission creep is bureaucratic creep (5.00 / 0) (#29)
    by SeeEmDee on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 12:31:55 PM EST
    I saw all this coming when the Iron Curtain fell and the Military and the Fed LE bureaucrat types began showing up at the '3 letter agencies' looking to extend their 'mission' to maintain their budgets. Every Fed agency wanted a piece of the DrugWar pie. Lotsa nice, low-hanging fruit, back then, and plenty of money to pick it.

    Well, that was all illusory; the bill for all the money borrowed all these years to make up for the difference collected in taxes (hint: tax money only pays for the interest on the National Debt, not the principal) is coming due Federally or Obama wouldn't be putting the brakes on domestic spending. When the realization sinks in that this won't be enough to placate the foreign creditors holding our debt, the next step is cuts.

    I expect more of this kind of bureaucratic grandstanding stuff as the sound of budgetary axes being sharpened gets louder. But it won't make much difference, as when things get tighter, more people will ask why we're spending so much money on 'saving the children from drugs!'  when their unemployed parents are worried about said kids being housed and fed.

    Then all this mission creep will come to a  screeching halt. It's that, or face final fiscal Armageddon. And the clock is running out...

    Don't they know there's a meltdown? (none / 0) (#1)
    by SeeEmDee on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 06:59:14 AM EST
    We've got former Working and Middle-Class people living in tent cities, under bridges, etc. in the middle of freakin' winter in danger of hypothermia, malnutrition, illness and whatnot, under threat of unemployment bennies running out, no jobs to be had...and we still think we have money to blow on this crap?

    At what point will it become obvious to the most politically purblind that we just can't afford the vast, ineffectual and pointless bureaucracies involved in drug prohibition?

    ICE ICE Baby.... (none / 0) (#2)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 07:50:43 AM EST
    too cold, too cold.

    As far as I'm concerned the ICE/DEA/CBP employees are all on public assistance for all the good they do, paying them to stay home would be an improvement.

    ICE: Scamming Middle America. It's what we do. (none / 0) (#3)
    by Yes2Truth on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 08:05:17 AM EST

    When it comes to scamming the public, few bureaucracies, outside the Pentagon, do it better
    than the criminals in law enforcement.

    Police:  n.  Armed force for protection and participation.

    MS-13 (none / 0) (#4)
    by SOS on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 09:59:44 AM EST
    Man that is one scary, nasty, and vicious organization. . . they make Al-Qaeda look like Pacifists.  

    So (none / 0) (#5)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 10:07:59 AM EST
    Are you advocating that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and Border Patrol Agents and Drug Enforcement Agents should not do their jobs and enforce the laws?  You may not like the laws, and you may be right that it's time to change them, but are you really saying all those people in those agencies should just say "Hey, we think these are stupid laws, so we're going to sit at our desks and play Solitaire on our computers instead"?


    It may be time for the laws to change, but until then, these agents have a duty to enforce them.

    no I'm not suggesting (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 10:58:18 AM EST
    people not do their jobs. I'm questioning whether these agencies are spending too much time on the war on drugs rather than attending to their   principal functions and missions and straying from those missions, and whether its happening because of their enhanced ability to combine intel to make routine criminal cases. The tools for the war on terror continue to be applied in a heavy handed manner to the war on drugs.

    Yeah... (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 11:21:20 AM EST
    Seems like Jeralyn is the one who wants these agencies to do their jobs, while jb seems to want them all to be rougue narcs...law and order outlaws, if you will.

    Me?  If I was king I'd be handing out pink slips or transfers to the Parks Dept. to pick up litter.


    Um (none / 0) (#17)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 11:24:10 AM EST
    Their jobs are to arrest people who break the law.  Do you have any further insight as to their job description?

    I agree with you there (none / 0) (#12)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 11:04:29 AM EST
    But the agents aren't in charge of making policy.  But a majority of the people in this country don't, and since we are usually a majority rule country, it seems the people with minority opinion need to make their arguments more appealing.  But saying that we busted gang members who have "only" been charged with civil immigration infractions is probably not going to convice many people.



    They have a duty allright... (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 10:42:12 AM EST
    tyranny duty.

    what I wanna know is do they have a conscience?  And have they read their Thoreau?


    Well, kdog (none / 0) (#8)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 10:50:15 AM EST
    Some people's consciences tell them that people should obey they laws of this country and if they don't like them, work to change them from the inside and not break them and expect to cry "Poor put upon me!".  

    Some people's consciences tell them that if they knowingly choose to break the law, then they should accept the consequences they have coming to them.  

    Some people's consciences tell them that if we allowed everyone to do whatever they want and obey what laws they feel like, we'd have complete anarchy and that would be good for no one.

    Some people's consciences tell them that people who knowingly break the law have no conscience or regard for their fellow human beings.  Certainly no respect for how their actions may affect others.

    But some people may disagree.


    Damn right people disagree... (none / 0) (#10)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 11:00:10 AM EST
    It is not only reasonable and acceptable to disobey unjust laws in my book, I would argue its your god damn patriotic duty to do so.

    The founders would surely agree, guilty of crimes against the crown all.


    Kdog (none / 0) (#11)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 11:04:09 AM EST
    It looks like ICE didn't do their job in this case from Queens.


    And no, I'm not saying all illegal aliens are bad. I am saying though that if this one had been deported as he was supposed to be then this woman would be alive.


    How awful... (none / 0) (#18)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 11:29:47 AM EST
    but that ain't ICE's fault, or the states...its the murderers.

    And where would the murderer (none / 0) (#20)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 11:32:58 AM EST
    have been if ICE had done their job?

    I'll wager, "Not in Queens."

    Be careful. That's a dangerous place you live in!


    Life is dangerous... (none / 0) (#21)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 11:41:53 AM EST
    its the tyranny I'm worried about.

    Speaking of which... (none / 0) (#13)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 11:06:33 AM EST
    Cannabis is the main sacrament in my religion

    Fight the power (using an ancient power)!


    The founders would not agree (none / 0) (#14)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 11:06:35 AM EST
    of everyone running amok for thier own interests, at the expense of society.  The founders were really only interested in the white, male, Protestant, landed gentry - not so much with everyone else's rights.

    Thats what King George said... (none / 0) (#16)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 11:23:30 AM EST
    the colonists are running amok at the expense of the empire.

    They still weren't (none / 0) (#19)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 11:31:21 AM EST
    about everyone having the right to do whatever you want.

    But we do have the inalienable right... (none / 0) (#23)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 11:44:16 AM EST
    to do whatever we want unless we harm others...and no matter what the law and the ONDCP says, a trunkload of reefer harms no one.

    Says you, of course (none / 0) (#24)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 11:46:05 AM EST
    Defining (none / 0) (#26)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 11:52:55 AM EST
    "harm others" is the rub.

    It sure is... (none / 0) (#27)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 11:56:38 AM EST
    and the official state definition sure rubs me the wrong way!...:)

    The founders risked (none / 0) (#22)
    by me only on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 11:43:23 AM EST
    losing their lives and families for what they believed.  In your case I see you doing neither and instead insinuating that those who work for the ICE, et al have no conscience.

    Well I do risk.... (none / 0) (#25)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 11:47:03 AM EST
    arrest everyday, which could mean my job and my freedom short-term...that doesn't count?

    But you've got a point, I'm a piker compared to the guys who take up arms against their oppressors, I just duck and cover.


    My real point was that (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by me only on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 12:07:31 PM EST
    questioning the conscience of people that you disagree with is a little over the top.

    I have never used illegal drugs.  I don't really care that much about the issue.  What I care about is that people respect the law and if they disagree work to change the law instead of just violating it and then acting like they have the high moral ground.


    I guess I can't help but question... (none / 0) (#30)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 01:15:00 PM EST
    whether the people who put people in chains over plants/powders/lack of papers have a conscience.

    I'm no beacon of morality or anything, but my conscience couldn't handle slapping chains on a human being over nonsense, or busting down doors in the middle of the night...I can tell you that much.  Breaking unjust laws?  Sh*t thats easy as pie on the conscience.


    Thankfully no one you purchase from (none / 0) (#31)
    by me only on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 02:06:20 PM EST
    has ever gotten into a turf war and killed someone.  On the other hand, maybe I misread you and you could care less about that.

    Not many turf wars... (none / 0) (#32)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 02:13:21 PM EST
    between potheads sorting their friends out for a discounted personal supply and/or a few extra bucks...thank the sun god.

    I do care though, which I want these laws repealed...remove the criminal element from the equation...but the DEA/CBP/ICE/BOP won't go for that, job security in the tyranny sector comes first.  And we know who our "representation" is really representing.  This whole "if you don't like the law change it" thing only exists on paper...the system is too set in their tyrannical ways and tyrannical profits to change anything.


    Slow up kdog (none / 0) (#34)
    by me only on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 03:35:25 PM EST
    Prohibition was terribly unpopular and eventually repealed.  Marijuanna will probably be decriminalized in the next 20 - 30 years.  The reason that alcohol was easier was that it was far more prevalent.

    Who are our representatives representing?  A bunch of people seem to think it is our corporate overlards (sic), but you seem to be insinuating it is the government employees.


    The two are intertwined... (none / 0) (#35)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 03:44:01 PM EST
    some call it fascism...the merger of government and corporate power.  What I like to call the tyranny sector of the economy includes public and private entities.

    I hope you're right about my reefer...but I won't hold my next toke waiting.  And decriminalizing/legalizing reefer alone will not adequately address the organized crime problem, we need to legalize all the illegal drugs.


    One man's (unlicensed, amateur) turf war (none / 0) (#33)
    by jondee on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 02:29:28 PM EST
    is another man's Manifest Destiny.

    And if the second was-is for the greater good of all, when's THAT going to kick in?