An escalating turf fight between warring drug cartels in Mexico is spreading into the United States with federal officials warning that deadly shootouts and ambushes along the southwestern border pose a serious threat to both U.S. law enforcement and American citizens, according to a confidential multi-agency government report.
The Aug. 29 report predicts a rise in the use of "deadly force" against U.S. police officials, first responders and residents along the border, and further spillage of drug-gang violence deeper into the United States.
Written by the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (AcTIC) and the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Investigative Support Center, the report also said the drug cartels are expected to hire members of deadly street gangs now in this country, including Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), to "carry out acts of violence against cartel members in the U.S."
"U.S. law enforcement and first responders need to maintain a heightened awareness at all times," the report said.
According to the report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, cartel members and police officials in Mexico, in a bid to spare their families from the violence that has overwhelmed many Mexican border towns, could begin relocating them to the United States, resulting in more homicides and home invasions along the southwestern border, increased availability of high-powered weapons to Mexican drug smugglers already in the U.S., and the potential for the family members to continue drug operations in the U.S.
The report also predicted an increase in assaults against illegal immigrants and rival cartel members in this country, suggested that the presence of cartel members in the U.S. would allow them to gather intelligence on police enforcement activities, and would facilitate their "transport of weapons and currency southbound in tractor trailers."
While not widely reported throughout most of the U.S., the increased border violence is not new to the federal, state and local law enforcement authorities assigned along the 1,951-mile U.S.-Mexico border.
Thousands more U.S. Border Patrol agents have been assigned to the region as part of a Department of Homeland Security strategy to gain "operational control" of the border. As a result of the increased pressure, the cartels have resorted to more violent means of guaranteeing their drug loads into the United States.
Shawn P. Moran, a 10-year U.S. Border Patrol veteran who serves as vice president of the National Border Patrol Council Local 1613, added that the drug gangs are heavily armed and well-equipped, and can easily outman and outgun U.S. authorities.
"They've got weapons, high-tech radios, computers, cell phones, Global Positioning Systems, spotters, and can react faster than we are able to," Mr. Moran said. "And they have no hesitancy to attack the agents on the line, with anything from assault rifles and improvised Molotov cocktails to rocks, concrete slabs and bottles. There are so many agent 'rockings' that few are even reported anymore. If we wrote them all up, that's all we would be doing."
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the investigative arm of Homeland Security, said in a report this year that the drug gangs were becoming increasingly ruthless against rivals, and also were targeting federal, state and local police. ICE said violence on the border has been rising dramatically over the past three years in what it called "an unprecedented surge."
During a January raid on a gang operation in Laredo, Texas, an ICE-led task force of federal agents seized two completed improvised explosive devices, materials for making 33 more devices, 300 primers, 1,280 rounds of ammunition, five grenades, nine pipes with end caps, 26 grenade triggers (14 with fuses and primers attached), 31 grenade spoons, 40 grenade pins, 19 black powder casings, a silencer and cash.
The border violence is the result of a bitter and often brutal battle between the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels in Mexico for control of lucrative drug smuggling corridors into the United States - established routes generally located between Nogales, Ariz., and El Paso, Texas. Many of the gangs' victims have been police officials and rival cartel members who have been executed in the border states of Chihuahua and Sonora.
The Sinaloa cartel, headed by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, is a primary mover of Colombian cocaine, Mexican marijuana, and Mexican and Southeast Asian heroin into the United States.
The Juarez cartel controls one of the primary shipping routes for billions of dollars worth of drug shipments entering the U.S. from Mexico annually, and has publicly posted lists of Mexican police officers it intends to kill - many of whom ended up dead or fled the country.