By District Attorney | Summer Stephan
As your District Attorney, I’m committed to increasing communication and accessibility between the DA’s Office and you, the community. One way I have been doing that is through this monthly column, where I provide consumer tips on public safety matters.
Every day, students on school campuses are approached by a peer with a hard-to-resist offer: “You wanna make $400 bucks?” It’s a tempting proposition, because who doesn’t want to make an easy $400? The problem is, that it’s not easy money; it’s an illegal and dangerous underworld of getting minors to smuggle drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border. Teenagers are being coaxed into strapping up to five pounds of heroin, meth or other drugs onto their bodies and walking or driving into the U.S. from Mexico. Often the heroin is laced with fentanyl or carfentanil — both so deadly it only takes a miniscule amount to kill a user.
Recruiters use all sorts of tactics to entice teens into agreeing to smuggle drugs. Here are some of the lies they tell:
- Nothing will happen to you.
- Even if you’re caught, because you’re a minor there are no legal consequences.
- You won’t go to jail.
- You’ll have money, friends, status, popularity and fancy clothes.
Even though the juvenile justice system is based on rehabilitation and not penalties, smuggling drugs across the border — especially in large quantities — is a serious crime. Here are some of the consequences for minors who are caught:
- Juvenile Hall and probation .
- The drugs you smuggle can kill you or someone else.
- You can lose U.S. citizenship or your SENTRI card.
- Your driving privileges can be revoked.
- Inability to secure government employment, join the military or law enforcement.
- Inability to secure employment requiring a license such as an attorney, health care or child care professional
Those of us in law enforcement want anyone who has agreed to smuggle drugs to know that it’s not too late to change your mind or ask for help. Ways to do that include:
- Seeking help at the Port of Entry.
- Asking to go to secondary inspection at the Port of Entry.
- Calling 911 if you are in immediate danger.
- Tell a school counselor or other adult who can help you get assistance.
- You can also anonymously report tips to 888-580-8477.
- For more information, visit studentsspeakingout.org.
There is a misconception that drug recruiters are older, hardened looking criminals. Today’s recruiter is often as young as your own teen and can look as innocent as anyone. Talking with your children and loved ones about the danger and consequences of smuggling drugs into the U.S. will prepare them to reject a drug-smuggling proposal if they get one. Criminals look for the easiest target, so don’t make it easy on them.
—District Attorney Summer Stephan has dedicated more than 28 years to serving justice and victims of crime as prosecutor. She is a national leader in fighting sex crimes and human trafficking and in creating smart and fair criminal justice solutions and restorative justice practices that treat the underlying causes of addiction and mental illness and that keep young people from being incarcerated.