We’re not sure yet what the wall on the Mexican border will look like – something new and forbidding or, sensibly, an extension of the adequate steel-bar fence that already exists along parts of the border. Whatever it is, it will challenge the ingenuity of the drug cartels determined to keep their billion-dollar business going no matter what. And to be sure, there are many Americans just as anxious for the drugs and the drug money that can be put to illicit uses.
A favorite cartel device for avoiding a barrier is to go underneath in a tunnel. One ran 273 feet from a luxury home in Mexico to a warehouse across the border in Arizona. You entered it by flipping a switch that boosted a pool table and a concrete slab below it into the air, revealing a narrow opening. Inside were electric lighting, a drainage system and a trolley to move the drugs.
In time, the Border Patrol caught on to tunnels. Something else was needed. How about a catapult that could toss more drugs over a fence than the human arm – several pounds worth. Still, the catapult is easily seen from across the border and not very accurate. Unsure where to stand, the recipient needs to be nimble not to be caught.
So let’s upgrade to a pneumatic cannon, less conspicuous when placed in the back of a pick-up truck. It can shoot more drugs at a greater distance than the catapult, though retrieving them remains a problem.
Then let’s take to water. Speedboats can sometimes elude the Coast Guard with enough cargo to make the trip worth it. More recently, narcosubs have arrived that are harder to detect beneath the waves. Costing about a million dollars to build, a 100-foot long submarine can carry enough cocaine to pay back that investment 150 times a trip, according to Popular Science.
Finally, up in the air. Drones are increasingly used, but can carry only a small amount of drugs, are easily detected and occasionally crash. More foolproof is the tiny ultralight aircraft. Weighing around 250 pounds, it requires a jockey sized pilot with an appetite for risk. It flies so slowly it couldn’t catch a car on a freeway, but it’s hard to detect at night without lights. Each flight can carry hundreds of pounds of drugs.
This is what the wall faces – Ingenuity on the U.S. side must match that of the cartels. At stake is the health of this nation and the lives of Mexicans that have been lost by the tens of thousands in the course of this multi-billion-dollar business.