The browser or device you are using is out of date. It has known security flaws and a limited feature set. You will not see all the features of some websites. Please update your browser. A list of the most popular browsers can be found below.
The agents showed photos of juvenile smugglers with blurred faces. In some photos, odd bulges showed through clothes. Others showed the minors revealing packages taped to their bodies.
“We see you in that two-hour line,” Aveina said. “You been up all night. You sweatin’ it. You got all this tape around you, all this narcotic. You don’t know what it is. And you’re standing there, and it’s hot, and — whoomp! — here comes the canine.”
Next onstage was Agent Brandon Nordhoff of the DHS’s special investigations team, who warned students that they were about to witness what he called the “violence section.”
“This is not something you guys are prepared for,” he said with a Southern twang. “I’m still not prepared for it, and I was a U.S. Marine in Iraq.”
Urging his listeners to close their eyes if they felt squeamish, Nordhoff then launched into a PowerPoint slideshow showing images of decapitated bodies and the like. Students murmured in disgust. Some gasped. A solitary voice from the back of the room exclaimed, “Cool!”
After the presentation, 14-year-old freshman Monica Liduvina Sanchez Martinez said that she was unfazed by the pictures. Though she’d never heard of teens from San Ysidro working as mules, she added, the gore wasn’t surprising.
“It was like ‘Call of Duty,’” she said, referring to the hugely popular video game. “That’s why I wasn’t grossed out, because I’m used to seeing that type of stuff.”
Still, she admitted it was a wake-up call. “When I first heard about (smuggling), I didn’t know that it was going on at all. I didn’t think it was a very big problem, I didn’t think people my age would be doing this stuff. Where are these people’s parents? How do they not know?”
Sophomore Keauni Arroyo, 15, agreed. She, too, hadn’t heard of any of her peers smuggling drugs but now had new concerns. “A lot of my friends want money. Money is their life,” she said. “And I think that if they’re offered more than a hundred dollars, that they’d go for it.”
The guest speakers stood along the side as the auditorium emptied out. A few students approached with inquiries. One boy asked who he could talk to if he knew something. Another student asked if canine units could detect drugs that had been doused in perfume.
“Dogs catch everything,” he was told.
Back in their classrooms some teachers had their students break into discussion groups to talk about the presentation. Keauni said classmates expressed concerns about racial profiling by CBP agents, noting that the program would have had more impact if teenage mules of all races had been shown. That way, she said, Mexican-American students wouldn’t feel singled out.
“I know a couple people, when they walked in and saw the ICE agents, they were like, ‘Oh my god! Run away!’” Keauni said. “I was like, ‘Guys, relax. They’re not here to arrest you.’”
The reaction is understandable. A number of troubling, high-profile cases involving allegations of U.S. authorities smuggling drugs and killing unarmed immigrants remain unresolved and haunt tight-knit border communities like San Ysidro.
“There are contradictions that are rarely talked about here,” said Christian Ramirez of Alliance SD, which promotes justice and social change. “The question is, does the (CBP) really have the moral authority to be conducting these sorts of trainings when it’s pretty much public knowledge that agents themselves have also been involved in smuggling operations?”
Nevertheless, San Ysidro High School students paid close attention to the presentation, which many had seen before. Keauni joked that she’d likely have to watch it again next year. She also offered a suggestion for improvement.
“Maybe if they made up a song,” she said. “People pay attention to songs. Especially when they’re funny, because then they’re like, ‘What? Did he seriously just say that?’”
She then recalled an expression heard often around the school after a sex-ed presentation: “No glove, no love.”
“I still say it!” she said, breaking into giggles. “Maybe they could have one like, If you don’t wanna die” — she thought for a moment — “don’t smuggle the high!”
Price of illegal drugs has declined while potency has increased, researchers warn
Filmmaker Shaul Schwarz examines 'narcocorrido,' music that glorifies drugs and violence
States like Indiana, West Virginia and Tennessee are fighting rising rates of babies born withdrawing from opiate drugs.