Surge in guns, cash and ammo being seized at the Arizona border

KOLD News 10-10:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Nov. 7, 2022 at 3:30 PM MST
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NOGALES, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Nogales Port of Entry is seeing a spike in ammunition headed into Mexico.

New data shows about 300,000 bullets, magazines and gun parts have been seized, a 200% increase over last year. Officers also rounded up dangerous firearms, and millions in cash.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers have seized machine guns, assault rifles and ammunition at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales.

Not only do officers want to stop dangerous stuff from coming into Arizona, but also prevent it from going into Mexico.

Every day CBP officers see a variety of illegal drugs concealed in an ever-changing variety of items from cars, to food, to cargo.

“Here a couple months ago in cargo we got a semi-tractor that had a floor compartment that had 1.27 million fentanyl pills and about 114 pounds of fentanyl powder,” said Nogales port director Michael Humphries.

In the past year, he says more than 10-million fentanyl pills were seized. Ranking the Nogales Port of Entry among the busiest ports for fentanyl seizures nationwide.

“It’s intended to be pushed throughout the U.S.,” said Humphries.

Not only are people smuggling drugs but cash and guns.

”Here are some AK-47 assault style rifles attempting to be exported into Mexico,” said Humphries while showing us photo evidence.

“Here’s an individual trying to walk into Mexico with three assault rifles under his shirt and into his pants,” said Humphries. “Here’s one from a couple of weeks ago, 13 mostly assault rifles.”

The weapons he says are used to influence and intimidate law enforcement, business owners, and innocent people.

“This is a .30 caliber machine gun,” said Humphries. “These are implements of war, not for hunting or target practice or anything like that.”

Humphries says in addition to firearms, undeclared cash is often destined for transnational criminal organizations in Mexico.

“For example, in July we seized over a half-million dollars in cash,” he said.

While there is no limit to how much money travelers can bring in or take out of the U.S., anything greater than $10,000 must be reported to CBP.

CBP data shows the Tucson field office seized $1.9 million dollars in the past year, up from $1.6 million in 2021. The majority of it headed to Mexico.

So what’s being done to stop the flow?

In addition to screening 300,000 passenger vehicles and 214,000 people on foot in September alone, on the commercial side of the port, officers X-ray and inspect cargo.

Right now, more than a thousand trucks carrying produce, dry goods and merchandise come through the Nogales port every day.

This year 42,000 trucks came through according to CBP data. Many are off-loaded for inspection on the dock, it’s time consuming work that gets results.

“What we do here really means a lot to Americans throughout the U.S.,” said Humphries.

Humphries says every time his officers get a seizure, criminals are losing a resource. By confiscating weapons and ammo en route to Mexico, he says it can’t come back to harm citizens here.