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Prosecutors in Arizona now charging Mexican juvenile drug mules as adults

May 5, 2016  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
Prosecutors in Arizona now charging Mexican juvenile drug mules as adults (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

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Law enforcement officials in Arizona have begun charging underage kids who are used as drug mules by Mexican drug cartels as adults.

According to the Los Angeles Times, law enforcement officials in Cochise County, Arizona have started designating juveniles as adults under a program called “Operation Immediate Consequences.”

Prosecutors said the program is part of a concerted effort aimed at stopping drug cartels from using children to smuggle drugs across the border, and officials say it’s proving to be effective.

In the past, Border Patrol agents would seize the drugs and give the underaged teens probation, which still the case in other Arizona counties, then deport the kids back to Mexico just to see them return weeks later.

However, officials maintain that by charging them as adults, the program is deterring cartels from utilizing children to smuggle drugs over the U.S. border.

Prosecutors said most of the subjects arrested have accepted plea deals. So far they have they have brought drug trafficking charges against 51 juveniles, the youngest offender being 14-years old.

Officials said the majority of those detained are mostly offered 18-month prison sentences in return for their guilty plea.

Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre said the effort now gives young smugglers a harsh new reality, who in the past would say “Just turn me loose and get it over with.”

One of the juveniles police nabbed is Mario Nieblas, a 17-year-old Mexican national, who admitted to smuggling two burlap bags of marijuana into the U.S.

Nieblas had originally accepted the plea agreement but rescinded it and instead decided to fight to have his case moved to a juvenile court after he was assigned a new attorney.

His new lawyer Xochitl Orozco is arguing that the original plea violated his client’s rights.

“They are taking this boy, treating him as an adult, having him sign papers without a lawyer present when he is an underage, unsophisticated Mexican citizen,” Orozco argued in front of a judge in court last Thursday.

Orozco added that Nieblas, who dropped out middle school to go to work making $47 per week in a factory in Agua Prieta, failed to realize the consequences of his actions and should be given an opportunity for rehabilitation in a juvenile facility, not an adult detention center.

“When it took him an entire work week just to earn $47, $400 is a much different consideration for someone whose brain is not fully developed yet,” Orozco said.

Although the majority of the juveniles charged are Mexican nationals, there are also some young American youths who have also been arrested under the new program.

Prosecutors charged two-star players on a local high school baseball team earlier this year, which prompted angry calls from parents.

That case is still pending, and neither has entered a plea.

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