EL PASO, Texas - Leaders from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Attorney General's Office of the Republic of Mexico (PGR) on Thursday announced a new agreement that will help deter drug smugglers from bringing narcotics into the United States.
Alonzo R. Peña, deputy assistant secretary for ICE, and Bernardo Espino del Castillo Barrón, PGR deputy coordinator of delegations, met in El Paso April 15 regarding the newly created Illegal Drug Program. This agreement allows PGR to prosecute certain Mexican nationals under Mexican law.
Under the agreement, ICE will transfer to PGR any Mexican nationals caught trying to smuggle drugs into the El Paso ports of entry. However, the U.S. Attorney's Office will first review these cases for its prosecution discretion. Before this agreement, many of these drug smuggling cases were transferred to local law enforcement agencies for prosecution. Only violators who are Mexican nationals, excluding U.S. permanent residents, will be transferred to the PGR. PGR will prosecute the accused drug smugglers; those convicted and sentenced will serve their time in Mexican prisons.
"The Illegal Drug Program shows the commitment by both governments to reduce the smuggling and trafficking of narcotics by ensuring violators are prosecuted," said Peña. "This new partnership is especially significant in light of the escalating violence in Ciudad Juarez fueled by the destructive influence of the illicit drug trade."
With this additional cooperation between the U.S. and Mexican governments, the goal of IDP is to increase the certainty of punishment to further deter anyone who considers drug smuggling to make quick money. ICE, working closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, will determine which cases to present to PGR. PGR will accept any drug-smuggling case referred to it, regardless of the quantity, quality or type of controlled substance seized.
ICE works daily with Mexican law enforcement to share information that supports investigation into weapons smuggling, gang violence, human smuggling and trafficking, and drug trafficking. IDP is the most recent example of the coordination and cooperation between the United States and Mexico to seek innovative ways to combat old problems.
El Paso is the second border city to initiate IDP. In October 2009, ICE initiated IDP in Nogales, Ariz. Since then, PGR has prosecuted two cases, resulting in 10-year sentences for both defendants.