Drug smugglers a problem for Arizona

July 6, 2010 at 7:51 AM

PHOENIX, July 6 (UPI) -- Drug smuggling by illegal immigrants does play a significant role in crime in Arizona, statistics supplied by the state's Department of Corrections indicate.

The department says 6,010 illegal immigrants are currently in state custody, including more than 2,000 who were convicted of drug violations serious enough to result in a prison sentence, the Arizona Republic reported Tuesday.

Gov. Jan Brewer's recent statement that the majority of people crossing the border into Arizona illegally are becoming drug mules is difficult to validate, said Jeff Palmer of the Pima County sheriff's border-crimes unit.

However, Palmer said the drug cartels have taken over longtime smuggling routes for people and narcotics.

The kidnappings and home invasions in Phoenix that made headlines last year were almost exclusively linked to the illegal drug trade and the area's status as a staging point for nearly half of all drugs coming into the United States, the newspaper said.

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