A Border Patrol agent makes a drug arrest. / Photo courtesy of Customs and Border Protection While the amount of drugs seized at San Diego’s border continues to grow annually, cross-border drug trafficking prosecutions in San Diego’s federal courts have been falling for years.
That trend predates the federal government’s “zero tolerance” policy to try and prosecute everyone who crosses the border illegally.
The decision to shift more resources into immigration prosecutions has likely contributed to fewer number of trafficking cases being prosecuted, but there’s something else at play, especially when it comes to prosecuting high-level cartel members: what happens in Mexico.
I spoke with David Shirk, a professor at the University of San Diego and director of the school’s Justice in Mexico project, about how the changing landscape of criminal organizations in Mexico could be impacting efforts to combat illicit drugs entering the United States and whether criminal prosecutions actually help stem illicit drug operations.
Shirk said prosecutions of high-level cartel leaders result in one or more of three things: some sort of retaliation against law enforcement, internal fighting within a group to take over leadership and encroachment from rival criminal organizations.
“They all tend to lead to a violent aftermath,” Shirk said, though he noted that the repercussions tend to happen more in Mexico than in the United States, and that U.S. prosecutions tend to be more effective because of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly known as RICO, which allows prosecutors to not only take down leaders in the organizations, but their affiliates.
That is what has happened with the extradition of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. It’s caused an unprecedented surge in homicides in Tijuana and throughout Mexico.
The Jalisco New Generation Cartel, which has emerged as a powerful international criminal organization in the past few […]