A teen under arrest in a suspected drug case. Courtesy San Diego County

Drug smuggling across the U.S.-Mexico border has always been a problem. However, this issue has worsened recently, with drug cartels getting young teens involved.

Juvenile drug smuggling affects my South Bay community as we are close to the border. There are drug cartels looking for young teens like me to hire as drug mules. This concerns me. It can be a huge issue for my community as these drug cartels are known for manipulating us and lying to young teens about the real consequences of being caught.

Recently I attended a presentation by federal and local law enforcement for teens and their parents. The program included representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, San Diego County District Attorney’s Juvenile Branch, Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, and Customs and Border Protection. They pointed out that there has been an increase in cartels bribing and coercing high school students to smuggle drugs across the Tijuana border.

The event that night really opened my eyes. It was a good experience not only for me, but for parents as well. During the presentation, I noticed both parents and students participating when the law enforcement officials answered questions. It made me glad to see young kids participate and learn about important topics that they may have never even heard of.

The well-attended and nicely done presentation provided information about the dangers of the drug fentanyl being carried across the border by teens. The presentation also showed three real-life videos of how smuggling drugs can ultimately affect a teen’s life negatively. While these videos showed and described tragic events, they helped give an idea of the consequences that could occur if a teen happened to get caught. Many kids do not consider the harsh consequences of getting arrested.

In order to help fix this issue, more schools should show this presentation to their students and parents. Becoming more aware of this dangerous situation can help increase the chances of parents preventing their children from being caught up in drug smuggling. One comment that actually made me think of this solution was from a parent who answered a question from one of the presenters. The question that they asked was, “Why does this happen?” The parent’s answer was the “lack of awareness.”

Some parents aren’t fully aware of what is going on in their children’s lives. It could be due to many factors like the parents being too focused on their job or other aspects of life. Because of this lack of supervision, parents aren’t able to talk to their kids and stop them from making terrible decisions.

To further my idea I believe schools should hold a similar presentation at reasonable times so that parents who work are able to go and listen to the topic at hand. If they still aren’t able to go, then I suggest that there should be a video of the presentation online. At least make a pamphlet in order for them to view or read this information at a time that works for them.

I call on the principals, administrators, educators and board members of all South Bay high schools and middle schools to make this program available to all of their students and parents. Students and parents are also encouraged to reach out to decision makers at their schools to request that the presentation be offered.

I am sure you will find that the law enforcement officials involved in the program are willing to go wherever they are invited.

Alejandro Yacopi is a senior at Montgomery High School in San Diego and a member of the South Bay Youth 4 Change, a coalition of students advocating for healthy, safe and thriving neighborhoods.

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