BROWNSVILLE, TX - As Donald Trump vows to make it harder for Mexican cartels to operate across the border, some believe that cartels will continue to find a way to smuggle people and drugs into the United States.
One Texas district attorney has seen this battle first-hand, helping convict a Border Patrol agent tied to a cartel murder case.
“I hate to sound like Sarah Palin, but you can see Mexico from here,” Cameron County District Attorney Luiz Saenz said as he looked out the window of his office at the border town of Brownsville, Texas.
When Saenz looks out his office window, he is reminded of cartel violence that is forcing many Mexican families to relocate to the U.S.
“I feel very sad for those individuals that have gotten caught up in the cartel war,” he said.
He noted that it’s a war motivated by one thing:
“The cartel has plenty of money,” he said. “They make no secret that they’re out to buy public officials at all levels. And sometimes they succeed and sometimes they don’t.”
One of the times cartels did succeed was after investigators found the headless body of Honduran immigrant Jose Francisco “Franky” Palacios Paz floating in the Laguna Madre in March of 2015.
The investigation led police to the Luna brothers.
The oldest brother, 37-year-old Fernando, avoided murder charges by pleading guilty to organized crime and agreeing to testify against his younger brothers, including Joel, who was a Border Patrol agent at the time. Joel was found guilty last week of taking part in organized crime after a safe, containing a gun and thousands of dollars in cash, was found in his home.
And despite being the youngest of the group, 27-year-old Eduardo, was identified as a cartel commander. The gun found in the safe had his nickname engraved on it, giving the jury enough to convict Eduardo of murder.
Renewed efforts to beef up border security with a wall and more boots on the ground is promising, but District Attorney Saenz feels that such action could make cartels more desperate.
“It is going to be more difficult, but they are not going to give up. They are not going to go away,” he said.
Nevertheless, Saenz finds reassurance in the work of the majority in law enforcement, who risk their lives to secure the border.
After the trial, Joel Luna agreed with prosecutors to serve 20 years in jail. A final sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 2. His younger brother, Eduardo, is now serving a life sentence.
Saenz hopes that the convictions will be a message to cartels and help keep corruption at bay.
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