POCATELLO — Gov. Brad Little believes a Border Patrol map he saw depicting the flow of Mexican drugs into the U.S. illustrated why it was necessary for a state abutting Canada to take action at the southern border.
“One of the maps up on the wall showed an arrow going right to Pocatello, Idaho, from down there,” Little said.
Thursday morning at the Idaho State Police district office in Pocatello, Little spoke about his recent trip to see the situation at the southern border in person, as well as his decision to send five ISP troopers to aid in border law enforcement in July. The governor was joined during the conference by Cpl. Jared Shively and Sgt. Curt Sproat, who were among the ISP officials deployed to the border for three weeks to assist Arizona law enforcement.
Little said Idaho’s mounting struggles with methamphetamine and fentanyl are directly tied to policies at the border. He was among 26 governors who drafted a list of 10 “policy solutions” that the Biden Administration could take to improve conditions at the border without having to pass legislation.
“The border crisis really affects all of us, particularly in the distribution and trafficking of narcotics. Idaho’s growing drug trend is a direct consequence of a loose border with Mexico,” Little said. “... Of the drug trafficking organizations investigated last year, 96 percent identified Mexico as the source country for drugs trafficked into the region.”
Little believes the ISP team made a significant difference and returned with knowledge of tactics and equipment that will be put to use in keeping drugs off of Idaho streets.
“Arizona State Police tell us the work they did at the border made a difference, and (Arizona Gov. Doug) Ducey confirmed that,” Little said.
He said the ISP team members who made the trip are all trainers who will share the knowledge they gained with “hundreds of other state and local law enforcement right here in Idaho.”
During the trip, Little was stricken by the omnipresence of the drug cartels. He saw several mansions on the Mexican side of the river belonging to cartel leaders.
Little explained cartels are making knockoff fentanyl pills that look exactly like prescription pharmaceutical pills, but roughly 30 percent of the bogus pills contain a lethal dose. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid.
Sgt. Sproat said supplies of both fentanyl and methamphetamine are up in Idaho, and prices are down.
“A majority of arrests we assisted with involved counterfeit pills that contained fentanyl,” Sproat said. “... We saw a huge flood of fentanyl and counterfeit pills and meth flooding into the U.S. Smugglers who in the past brought huge bundles of marijuana into U.S. have transitioned to fentanyl and meth.”
Sproat said that increase in pill smuggling is responsible for the spike in methamphetamine and fentanyl in Idaho.
At the border, Sproat said his team also saw encountered drug users who were “addicted to the point they didn’t even care what happened to them or what crime they committed.”
He said his team also arrested many people with violent backgrounds, including a suspect wanted in connection with a California homicide.
Since returning, Sproat said the Idaho team has remained in contact with the officials they met in Arizona.
“Traffickers try to stay one step ahead of law enforcement, so we need to know their techniques, and we saw that firsthand,” Sproat said. “We also saw the use of new technology. We brought these ideas back home and options for technology ISP is considering for future use.”
Little believes current policies at the border send the “signal that the borders are open.”
“All of the statistics are up 300, 400 and 500 percent over what it was a year ago,” Little said regarding border crime.
Little said Biden has not yet agreed to meet with the governors who offered their suggestions about border changes. Among the changes, the governors would like to see the continuation of Title 42 public health restrictions, which make it possible to refuse entry to individuals due to the COVID-19 public health risk. They advocate for fully reinstating the Migrant Protection Protocols, requiring asylum seekers to return to Mexico to await a court hearing outside of the U.S.
They’d like to see the border wall finished. They’ve also urged for additional judges and resources to U.S. immigration courts to expedite court appearances for illegal immigrants. Deploying more federal law enforcement officers to the border is also necessary, according to the governors.