Entering the border zone

By Charlie Morasch, staff writer

Running a regular route to a warehouse near the U.S.-Mexico border, it was some time before Mike – not his real name – was approached by drug runners.

It was during that time, Mike said, the border was changing.

First, the U.S. side tightened up. Mexican smugglers enlisted truckers on the American side to smuggle cash south of the border and drugs into the U.S.

“They weren’t even hiding it anymore,” Mike said. “It’s getting scary down there.”

At one point, Mike said smugglers approached his girlfriend, who was then a truck stop waitress in Laredo, TX.

“A guy said, ‘we’ve been asking your boyfriend pretty nicely to do things, and we just wanted to come by and say ‘hi,’” Mike recounted. “‘Maybe you should tell him to consider the job we’re talking about.’”

Though Mike hasn’t worked the border for more than a year, he still has friends who work there. He wonders how safe they will be as the U.S. DOT pushes the cross-border trucking program, and cartel influence spreads in both the U.S. and Mexico.

A recent report from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police says the expansion of cross-border trucking is likely to create a turf war between cartels. One can only wonder what that can lead to when Mexico is already reporting record truck cargo theft.

Referencing the pending White House decision to enact cross-border trucking for Mexican drivers, the report says cargo distribution will move further to inland ports, and that cross-border trucking could create a turf war between Canadian and Mexican criminal groups.

“Competition may create a realignment at the border, with Mexican criminals moving cocaine north and Canadians moving marijuana and cash south into the U.S.”

Much like the old show “Dragnet,” this op-ed has changed Mike’s actual name to protect the innocent. He is a veteran trucker and OOIDA member who asked Land Line to not use his name. He had a regular run to Laredo, TX, for 12 years, only stopping in 2009 after he says the job’s proximity to major drug running worried him.

And Mike isn’t the only OOIDA member to call in recently after run-ins with drug smugglers. The Association’s Business Assistance Department spoke with another member in July who had drugs planted in his load near the border in Texas.

The problem has become so prevalent that three years ago, Texas Gov. Rick Perry created the Texas Hold ’Em program for state troopers to educate U.S. truckers about the perils of smuggling and to point out how often American drivers are being propositioned to haul drugs.

Mike says it happens all the time and is one of the reasons he stopped going down there.

“It’s just too dangerous,” he said. LL