Valley Sheriffs Want To Search Southbound Cars, Too

Be careful if you're driving south with your guns and life savings. If some sheriffs have their way, county cops could take it all away.

Late last week, sheriffs from Cameron County and El Paso County announced that they would love it if deputies started inspecting every car and truck traveling south, heading in the direction of Mexico. The goal would be to stop the flow of guns and narco-cash being delivered to drug cartels.

According to the Rio Grande Guardian, Sheriff Omar Lucio of Cameron County, which includes Brownsville, said, "We need to check every vehicle."

Lucio told the Guardian that his deputies picked up $267,000 heading south about three weeks ago, and that sources tell him that another $250,000 is scheduled to pass through his county on the way to Mexico sometime in the near future. Lucio says that not only will such search and seizures help stem the tide of guns, ammo and money to drug traffickers, but the confiscated sums can be used to buy more sheriff's equipment and hire more deputies to fight the cartels.

While this type of plan seems to make sense on some levels, it raises many questions and potential problems. For one, do southbound searches really make a difference?

In spring 2009, according to the Associated Press, the feds launched a seven-week, $95 million outbound inspection program near busy border crossings in Laredo, El Paso, San Diego, Calif. and Nogales, Arizona. The results were apparently less than fantastic.

The AP reported that 51 pieces of ammo and gun parts were discovered, a fraction of the estimated 2,000 weapons a day that the Mexican government says are smuggled south, and $12 million was seized, less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the $39 billion a year that the U.S. Department of Justice estimates is transported from the United States to Mexican cartels.

"I do not believe we can even make a dent in (southbound smuggling)," a Border Patrol agent told the AP.

Also potentially problematic would be making sure that the in-state, southbound traffic stops and seizures are legal. After all, it seems like a rather thin line between someone heading in a southerly direction with the intention of delivering several guns to a cartel, and a Texan moving to Brownsville with his personal arsenal in tow and life savings stashed behind the radio for safe keeping.

"It's always an issue of needing probable cause to search," Dotty Griffith, Public Education Director of ACLU of Texas, told Hair Balls.

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