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Inside an Arizona anti-smuggling unit ride-along

CASA GRANDE, Ariz. (NewsNation) — A lack of manpower along the southern border is forcing authorities to release suspected smugglers.

NewsNation’s Ali Bradley was able to go on a ride-along with a specialized anti-smuggling unit with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. During that time, NewsNation learned how thin the U.S. Border Patrol is being stretched.

Sheriff’s deputies pulled over a vehicle for illegal window tint and discovered six individuals from Mexico were crammed inside; one of them was stuffed in the trunk.

The driver, a 20-year-old U.S. citizen from Mesa, Arizona, said the occupants were his family members, but couldn’t tell deputies their names.

A Border Patrol agent arrived and apprehended the six individuals, which were determined to be undocumented. However, the agent said he couldn’t take the driver to be charged and processed accordingly because near Lukeville, a group of 160 migrants was encountered and they could not handle the task.

The driver was let off with a warning for the window tint. In Arizona, the sheriff’s office couldn’t arrest or charge him because it is a federal crime, not a state crime.

“So, obviously the securement of our border is not good because we have so much people coming in here right now with the influx of them that the U.S. Border Patrol can’t even keep up with them,” said Det. Ken Nardelli, of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.

The driver told NewsNation that his family is struggling to make ends meet, so he was trying to make some extra money. He said learned about the smuggling opportunity on Facebook and was offered $400 to $500 for each person that he smuggled.

When asked if he would try again, since there were no ramifications for his actions during this stop, he said he might.

The Pinal County Sheriff’s Anti-Smuggling Unit conducts operations daily along the highways and will continue as long as the need is there.