WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Representative Ann Kirkpatrick, Arizona's only Member on the House Committee on Homeland Security, announced today that she has successfully pushed one of her measures to combat drug cartels through Congress. The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, which passed unanimously through the Senate yesterday evening, included an amendment by Rep. Kirkpatrick that would help that the agency improve its efforts to detect and stop the illegal smuggling of U.S.-bound drugs, weapons and cash along water routes from South America to Mexico. Much of the contraband is eventually smuggled across the border into Arizona. Rep. Kirkpatrick first introduced this amendment in October 2009, and after months of work, it can now be enacted into law as part of the larger package structuring Coast Guard operations.
Due to American law enforcement's hard work with foreign governments, drug lords who produce cocaine and other narcotics in South America have had an increasingly difficult time smuggling their products through the Americas along overland routes. As a result, they have been turning to sophisticated means of trafficking, including submarine-like vessels that transfer drugs to Mexico's overland smuggling operations after traveling through the water off South America's Pacific coasts.
Though the military and law enforcement officials have taken significant steps to combat these operations, more than one-third of the cocaine that reaches this country is transported using these boats. Rather than continuing to rely on standard tactics to combat this threat, Rep. Kirkpatrick's amendment would require the Coast Guard to put together a comprehensive strategy for specifically dealing with trafficking threats posed by submersible and semi-submersible vessels.
"Drug kingpins are using every means at their disposal to smuggle cocaine and other illegal substances into this country," said Congresswoman Kirkpatrick. "As soon as law enforcement shuts down one operation, these criminals adapt and find new schemes to avoid detection. We have to make sure that the people who protect us from these threats have the tools they need to stay one step ahead."
With a strategy in place to address this growing menace, the Coast Guard will be better equipped to focus on best practices, devise new methods and more effectively disrupt underwater smuggling routes. This will have a direct impact on the volume of narcotics flowing into Arizona and the rest of the United States.
"As I continue my fight to make Washington secure the border, we must remember that many of the drugs we're fighting to keep out of our communities have their origins in the jungles of South America," said Congresswoman Kirkpatrick. "We can't let our law enforcement, working on American soil, be this Nation's first line of defense against the international cartels that smuggle them here. We need to ensure our servicemembers at sea and our federal agents posted abroad are given the resources to stop these traffickers before they reach our borders."
An estimated 70 submersibles and semi-submersibles were put to sea last year, some carrying over 10 tons of drugs. Many of them incorporate advanced technology to avoid radar detection and can travel up to 3,000 miles without stopping. In addition to carrying illegal narcotics, some have been found to contain weapons and bulk cash.