Tucson – Between last Oct. 1 and June 30, law enforcement authorities arrested 135 minors who were trying to enter the United States over Arizona's southern border with packets of drugs taped to their bodies, a substantial increase over the 83 cases registered during the same period of the 2010 fiscal year.
"The youths are often recruited by the traffickers under the false promise that due to their age they will not face any consequences if they're arrested," Chris Leon, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Arizona, told Efe.
Of the 135 minors arrested, 93 are U.S. citizens and 42 are Mexicans.
"They are telling them that their criminal record will be erased when they become adults and that's a lie," said the CBP agent.
He warned that a minor who is arrested for drug smuggling will be processed and tried like any other person.
"This can seriously affect their future, since they may not be able to go to school because they're in jail or afterwards they can't get a job with the federal government because they have a criminal record," Leon said.
In the case of the Mexicans, they will not only face a prison sentence but also deportation and losing the possibility of entering the United States again legally.
In general, youths transport the packets taped to their waist, back, legs or arms.
Leon said that of the 135 people arrested to date, about 50 were transporting drugs like cocaine, crystal meth and heroin and the rest were carrying marijuana.
"Our customs agents have the necessary knowledge and experience to detect when a person shows signs that they could be carrying a shipment of drugs with them," the official said.
The presence of more agents, resources and up-to-date technology at the entry points along the frontier is enabling authorities to detect more drug shipments, and the use of trained dogs is also helping to stem the flow of drugs, he said.
Leon warned that minors who get involved with drug trafficking organizations also expose themselves to potentially deadly reprisals.
In an effort to prevent criminal organizations from continuing to recruit minors, members of the CBP, Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies are visiting Arizona schools to alert young people about the risks they run if they believe the false promises of traffickers.
"We want young people to understand the legal consequences they could face," said Leon, who added that the drug traffickers pay up to $1,500 for transporting a drug shipment through the border crossing points.
"We can't understand how a young person could put his future at risk for $1,500," he emphasized.
Among the most recent cases, CBP agents arrested a 16-year-old Mexican girl at the DeConcini crossing point with a packet of amphetamines taped to her back.
Also at DeConcini, a 19-year-old U.S. man was arrested with a packet of amphetamines bound to his leg.