Sorry folks, but it’s all smoke and mirrors. Pull up some posts on your browser on “busts on the border,” and you’ll find that the majority involve marijuana and illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America. When a tunnel is uncovered, it typically contains marijuana.

In fact, here are the numbers from the CBP Info Center:

  • Number of pounds of marijuana seized: 4,330,475
  • Number of pounds of cocaine seized: 135,943
  • Number of pounds of methamphetamine seized: 6,135
  • Number of pounds of heroin seized: 2,015

If you attend a briefing from any Department of Homeland Security border agency, the highlighted number that is provided for you is marijuana. At the Air and Marine Operations Center, they flouted a figure of 312,903 pounds seized. In 2014, they brought in 70,577 pounds of marijuana with a combined street value of over $253 million.

My reaction is, “So what?”

The nation is facing what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared a heroin epidemic, and we’re talking about pot. This can’t be for real. At the DHS, pot is their happy number. Still, I’m not the only one who doesn’t care. The DEA has provided an interagency do-not-disturb mandate for any amount of marijuana under 400 pounds.

Also, no one has ever overdosed on pot. Potheads are not using the streets as a toilet because their weed was cut with baby laxative. That would be the heroin addicts who will be busting out your windows while you’re at work to pay for their next fix. As for marijuana, it’s less of a crime in America than ever before. “Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia currently have laws legalizing marijuana in some form.” Drug cartels are finding it more difficult to profit from marijuana in the U.S. because of this, and “designer strains” of marijuana outclass the low-grade marijuana from Mexico.

Mexican marijuana, refered to as “dirt brown” or “brick weed,” is in limited demand in comparison with its U.S.-grown, legal (or bootlegged) competition. In fact, interstate bootlegging is outpacing the Mexican cartel monopoly on pot due to its low quality and associated dark and bloody nature. Nonetheless, in 27 other states, you have to deal with criminals to get it. Remove the criminals, and you’re dealing with something less destructive than alcohol that provides remarkable tax revenue. Plus, we’d be removing something simple and stupid that ties up federal agents who could be spending their time doing something more worthwhile.

Yes, all of that, but still this harmless drug is the headline DHS agencies are proud of. Offline, those agencies would tell you why: It’s all part of a practice well known by government employees, and one that goes by many names. For some, it’s pencil-whipping. Others, it’s coloring. Many call it job security. But for those of us in reality, it’s just bullshit. The practice of meeting policy and providing the “we’re doing great in my department” nod and chuckle. If things aren’t normal, you could get fired. If everyone else is reporting all clear, and you’re not, then you must wrong. That system can’t be wrong, after all.

My notion to uncover this started simply. I was running game theory in my head as I started my drive through Texas to California, and continued throughout my journey and on the way back. The border and its many facets—competing agencies, politicians, money, third-party organizations (NGOs, militias, activities, etc.), and grandstanders—seemed so unlikely considering it was all part of such a deserted area. So I started off as the opposing force, the cartels, and mapped out a few ways that I could become successful as a cartel kingpin. The conclusions I came to, dishearteningly, turned out to be true when I spoke with agents in the field and reviewed the press releases on DHS agency sites.

One of these conclusions is that a majority of the marijuana busts are purposefully left dangling by the cartels, or at least handled with purposeful neglect. I ran my findings by in-the-field DHS agents, as well as analysts who confirmed my findings.

Marijuana is only a decoy

The cartels send marijuana over the border at high levels for the purpose of being busted. Their intent is diversion and keeping the U.S. justice system satisfied. The practice is as simple as a carnival game. We’re winning decoys. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. If marijuana is seized in transit, the agents in the field for that bust are now occupied by the bust. The more pot, the more agents become occupied in the field dealing with this nuisance. Marijuana is nothing more than a pawn, a low-cost and disposable item that can be sacrificed to allow the cartels to then send in the moneymakers—the cocaine, the heroin, the methamphetamines—without being caught.

If a tunnel is getting rundown or a better one has been constructed, this same principle applies. Send the marijuana through the old tunnel, as it is most likely to be compromised. That busted tunnel will satisfy federal mandates, providing the appearance of proactive U.S. law enforcement. Happy and busy American law enforcement drops U.S. situational awareness, and cartel activity increases in other sectors. This alleviates some pressure from the cartels, who are moving their money-making product elsewhere simultaneously. All thanks to their pawn, marijuana.

Send in the migrants

The next diversion tactic employed by cartels involves migrants. This tactic operates on a single principle: the dam-and-flood effect. Cartel operatives who manage the corridors into the United States work in tandem with one another through their affiliated cartel, or simply by way of mutually aligned goals. Migrants are typically held to pool at an assembly point far removed from the border until an adequate number is assembled. Once enough migrants are assembled to meet the mission requirements, the cartels deposit this mass of people at a release point near the border, telling them which direction to travel. The bad guys just made their coyote money and are set to tie up border agents with a massive influx of migrants so that they may then execute other forms of trafficking adjacently. It’s simple business; they are maximizing profits and minimizing expended resources.

Migrant tactics work. A sudden influx requires the few agents working a stretch of land to call in reinforcements so that they can take custody and process the migrants who suddenly appeared. Agents in the field have been  reporting upward of 100+ migrants in a single wave. Sometimes they arrive in a staggered wave of 100+ individuals, with a follow-on wave of 100 or more. That’s a border agent’s shift—spent processing decoys.

The waves of migrants employed by the dam-and-flood tactic are often unique. Often, the cartels take advantage of U.S. policy by bombarding the borders with unaccompanied minors and women with infants. Both are granted special status, treatment, and transport. Cartels also use to their advantage asylum and refugee seekers, such as those from China. These individuals will not be considered illegal immigrants and awarded a bus ride back. They instead receive special exotic asylum- and refugee-seeker status, and will not be counted, processed, or housed in the same areas with Mexican or Central American non-exotic migrants. Their paperwork and processing time will pull agents out of the field to process them, usually for longer stretches. These exotic asylum and refugee seekers are often deployed in smaller groups of 10–20 individuals and are ordered to seek out border agents to claim their status and to disrupt border-agent patrols to reduce agent numbers in the field.

Watch: SOFREP investigates drug cartels on the U.S.-Mexico border

Read Next: Watch: SOFREP investigates drug cartels on the U.S.-Mexico border

Diversion, cartel style: The pot, tunnels, and migrants we see are decoys
Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

It is through the combined usage of these two strategies that the cartels are exploiting existing security concerns on the border. They are using a brute force, denial-of-service attack and exploiting our system’s vulnerability with such a burden—demanding all our resources while expending next to none of their own. They’ve hacked America, and we think we’re winning.

The next time you read a report on marijuana or a large group of migrants captured at the border, ask yourself how much heroin just breezed through the border while that was happening. Because it is happening, and there is nothing that can be done about it. Our law enforcement system is content with collecting numbers with no real significance outside our government’s arbitrary metrics.

Considering the larger picture does not matter; in fact, it’s discouraged. There are forms to fill out, boxes to check, policies to be followed. Everything is normal and perfectly fine in this department. A federal employee said it best after demanding real results: “Shut up and color.”

Featured image: Nothing to see here…move along. Just a wrecked vehicle full of bullet holes, long abandoned in the middle of the desert, miles from civilization. Image courtesy of Buck Clay.