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Border & Immigration

US Will Increase Inspections To Find Guns Bound For Mexico

The southbound inspection lanes at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on October 25, 2019.
Matthew Bowler
The southbound inspection lanes at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on October 25, 2019.

Mexico has for years asked the United States to better target the trafficking of guns into the Latin American country and specifically requested officials focus on vehicles transporting the weapons over the border.

After a deadly shootout last week in the city of Culiacán, where cartel members brandished high-powered American-made weapons, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador reiterated his country's request to President Donald Trump.

Now, the two nations have agreed to step up enforcement, as part of an effort called “Operation Frozen,” which will increase southbound inspections of cars at the border.


The U.S. has promised Mexico a crackdown on gun smuggling before.

RELATED: Mexico’s American Gun Problem

Earlier this year new southbound booths were added to the San Ysidro Port of Entry to allow for enhanced inspections. On most days, however, those new booths have gone unattended.

“They really look like it was mostly a symbolic gesture, because I have to say that most of the time you go through there, the southbound inspection is irregular at best. There’s not a lot of inspection there,” said Ev Meade, a University of San Diego professor who studies violence and peace-building in Mexico.

While people driving across the border with guns certainly contributes to the problem, Meade said a lot of the guns are legally purchased by the Mexican army from firearm manufacturers in the U.S. Once across the border, these guns then find their way into the hands of cartel-members.


“We can do a lot with the big shipments, which are a lot easier to track. These are things that are going directly from the big manufacturers in the U.S., supposedly directly to Mexican military,” Meade said. “And again a lot are not getting there. That would seem like a bigger target.”

In a statement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection told KPBS that southbound inspections are done “when resources permit,” and that CBP uses a “pulse and surge” method based on intelligence they receive. This means outbound inspections can be “unexpected.”

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