CBP: Children targeted for illegal drug smuggling

CBP: Children targeted for illegal drug smuggling

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Evaristo Pereda smuggled drugs from Mexico into the United States for years on his way to school.

"I was 14 years old and I decided, yeah nothings going to happen," said Pereda. "I got caught with one pound of meth."

Authorities say meth is the most common drug smuggled because it is easier to hide.

In 2017, Customs Officers have seized 62 pounds of meth from minors going through Arizona ports of entry. Pereda's not alone – officials say teens are commonly targeted for the illegal trade.

"It's like any other child you offer them something they like, like a smart phone," said Miguel Valadez, San Luis Assistant Port Director.

The drug smuggling trade now has parents on high alert. Just last year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection arrested 89 juveniles for smuggling drugs through Arizona's ports of entry.

Thousands of children cross the Ports of Entry into Arizona to get an American education, and parents say they warn their children to be aware of drug cartels.

"I always tell my daughters when they cross to always check behind them and their backpacks. Someone could place something inside their backpacks so I make sure to remind them," said a concerned mother in San Luis, Mexico.

Officials on both sides of the border say they are working to educate children and teens to make sure they are not getting caught with drugs. For Pereda, he did time behind bars after getting caught. He says he hopes others will learn from his mistakes and stay away from smuggling.

"I was disappointed because of my family and I was very sad because I knew I was going to prison," said Pereda.

CBP Officers told Tucson News Now they now pair up with Border Patrol agents to present "Operation Detour" to schools across the state. They're working to educate students about the dangers of getting involved with the cartels.

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