Aid Proposed for Texas Drug Cases 

Aid Proposed for Texas Drug Cases 
Posted by FoM on June 10, 2000 at 08:10:51 PT
By Julie Nolen, Daily Texan, U. Texas-Austin
Source: U-WIRE
Texas Gov. George W. Bush has proposed $50 million to help reimburse five border counties that have prosecuted federal drug referrals, an expense that has averaged out to $8 million annually. State prosecutors from El Paso, Hidalgo, Cameron, Starr and Hudspeth counties have threatened to stop indicting federal drug cases beginning July 1 unless the federal government covers the cost, county officials said Wednesday at a press conference. 
The prosecutors sent letters to Congress asking for federal money to reimburse border counties for aiding federal agencies in the drug war. "In our battle against the international drug trade, the Southwest border is the front line," Bush said in a statement. "Much of the burden from this national battle falls on border counties, whose limited resources are already stretched thin." Bush's initiative will also direct U.S. attorneys on the Southwest border to prosecute large drug cases in federal courts, in addition to an appointed Southwest border coordinator leading a joint federal-state partnership and coordinating drug enforcement and prosecution efforts. Ray Sullivan, spokesman for Bush, said the $50 million will come from federal funds, but that this is just a proposition Bush has made in his campaign for the presidency. Marcos Lizarraga, first assistant district attorney for El Paso, said the cases are putting an unfair burden on border taxpayers, who pay to hold defendants in jail, prosecute them and sometimes hire defense lawyers for them. "We're the poorest counties in the country because of this problem," he said. "It costs El Paso alone a couple of million [dollars] a year." Texas taxpayers also pay to incarcerate smugglers in state prisons, Lizarraga added. Mike Stokes, supervising agent for the El Paso county Drug Enforcement Agency, said he destroys approximately five tons of assorted narcotics every other month. "There are even other DAs that don't realize what happens on the border," he said. "In the middle of the night, they'll come by backpack, on foot and even on rail it's a big problem." Stokes added that along the U.S.-Mexico border, most drug trafficking patterns are very similar. "You've got economically disadvantaged people in Mexico who are willing to risk their lives for $100 with a promise of $1,000 if they get through okay," he said. "If the guy gets caught, he will probably have a better life in the U.S. jail than across the border." Crossing the border in Texas is also easier for traffickers, increasing the caseload in those counties, Stokes said. Stokes said drug trafficking could be good business for capable criminals. "It takes 45 pounds of marijuana until the feds will respond in El Paso," he said. "Let's say this guy is only carrying 45 pounds each time, he might get probation his first two times he's caught. If he's good enough and only gets caught once a year, that's substantial." Stokes added that if a drug trafficker can carry 45 pounds of dope in a week, which would equal 2,000 pounds a year at $500 a pound, over $1 million will be made. "It all adds up," he said. "It's big business down there." June 9, 2000 (U-WIRE) Austin, Texas (C) 2000 Daily Texan via U-WIRE  Copyright  2000 At Home Corporation. Related Articles:Border DAs To Nix Federal Pot Cases Proposes New Initiative to Help Border
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