Border Patrol sure spends a lot of time on I-10

Hidy hi friends and neighbors. I realize it has been a week or so since I last published but, well, you probably don’t want to hear my lame-ass excuse so I will just leave it at that.

Yesterday, I traveled across the border —  of Texas and Louisiana — to Lake Charles for a visit with my brother. He is recuperating in a hospital following a quadruple coronary bypass.

Somewhere between the Texas-Louisiana border and Lake Charles, I spotted the tell-tale white and green SUVs used by the Border Patrol. I think they are called “Customs and Border Protection (CPB)” nowadays although the two trucks sitting in the median of I-10 bore the traditional name of Border Patrol.

I wondered what they were doing there in Southwestern Louisiana less than 30 miles from the Louisiana and Texas border. I see Border Patrol trucks in Beaumont once in awhile but never stalking motorists, at least in this part of the country.

A couple of scenarios about Border Patrol hanging out on I-10 in Southwestern Louisiana, came to mind. Perhaps they had intelligence about some truck coming out of Texas hauling illegals. Perhaps they were making stops of anyone with a brown or olive complexions. I would not be surprised if the agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, was out there to protect the homeland.

A CPB agent cuffs a Mexican national. Border Patrol photo
A CPB agent cuffs a Mexican national. Border Patrol photo

I found out by searching the Web that the Border Patrol has a station in Lake Charles because, like Beaumont, it is a port city. I also found that a “port of entry” station is located in Port Arthur that also serves Beaumont. The Border Patrol has a number of stations and checkpoints throughout the South and Southwest. Perhaps the most notorious of those can be found at Sierra Blanca, on I-10.

Since 1974 the Border Patrol or CPB as it is now known has maintained a checkpoint near the small town of Sierra Blanca, which is almost 80 miles southeast of El Paso — as the crow flies. Every car traveling east on I-10 must enter that station. It wasn’t much of a big deal from 1977 to 1984, the times during which I most traveled through the station. Back then, the exercise was much like entering back into the U.S. from Ciudad Juarez to El Paso. You didn’t come to a complete stop, most of the time, and would be on your way if you answered the question — Nationality? — from the border agent as “American.” Sometimes there were random checks. I never went through one there in Sierra Blanca, thankfully. I went through a not-so-random check once while riding as a passenger in my friend’s car returning to El Paso.

My friend, who is Mexican-American, said the Border Patrol kept a database of cars that had been involved in previous incidents such as a stop in which pot had been discovered. I don’t think he had ever been busted at the border, but perhaps a friend was wanted on some charge.

So in El Paso, the big German Shepherd dope dog sniffed all through my friend’s car. I knew with reasonable certainty that no pot that was carried back from Mexico. Brought into Mexico, well … ? The dog was sniffing like crazy at what was a portable bar in the trunk. My friend said it was possible some weed had been stashed in it at one time. The agents couldn’t find anything on the car or on us, so there we went on our merry way.

But that was then and this is now. The Border Patrol these days has dogs that supposedly can sniff out drugs of all kinds — and possibly explosives or gun powder — when a vehicle drives up. The people get caught, more often than not, with small amounts of marijuana. It is quite routine in Sierra Blanca, Texas.

Those with many famous names have been popped and eventually taken to the small courthouse in Sierra Blanca where often-overwhelmed deputies will many times write a ticket for possession for a small amount of pot. Among the celebrities were Willie Nelson and Snoop Dog. This process, and how it reflects on a portion of the drug war gone very badly, is told in this excellent Texas Monthly story written by Al Reinert. The writer, who co-wrote the screenplay for “Apollo 13,” was arrested with a small amount a couple of years ago and tells a very entertaining story though it depicts how millions of taxpayers’ dollars are doled out on small-time pot busts in Sierra Blanca.

The checkpoints are numerous in the Southwest. If you want to transport illegal drugs, you best go through one of the checkpoints without drugs and buy them somewhere like Kansas City and head to wherever it is you are going. Then good luck with all the small towns who all have their own drug dog.

I know the CPB does very important work and are a big part of preventing people like the San Bernardino terrorists from killing more Americans. Perhaps the current homegrown or self-radicalized terrorists we are facing like to get high, although it doesn’t seem like any self-respecting Jihadist would be your average pothead. Still, I hope those two Border Patrol trucks I saw yesterday on I-10 in Louisiana aren’t spending their time trying to bust a person with a small amount of marijuana. There are more serious tasks.

It also seems as if these days with all the danger we supposedly face in the homeland, a bong hit might not be the worst treatment for what ails you.

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