Union Pacific continues to challenge drug-smuggling fines
Published: June 15, 2011
EL PASO, Texas — The U.S. government continues to fine Union Pacific for drugs smuggled across the Mexican border even as the railroad continues refusing to pay, the Associated Press has reported. Stepped-up screening has led to more drug discoveries, resulting in more fines.
Under a 1930 law requiring an accurate manifest of everything on board a train, the U.S. Department of Justice fines UP $500 per ounce of marijuana and $1,000 per ounce of heroin or cocaine that reaches the United States on UP trains. These fines now exceed $388 million.
The government says UP is responsible for the trains even on the Mexican side of the border, noting UP owns a 26 percent interest in Ferromex. UP says it’s unreasonable to expect the railroad to “send unarmed personnel into Mexico to battle Mexican drug cartels that maliciously murder and wage war against the Mexican military.” More than 35,000 people have died in battles with the drug cartels over the past five years.
Federal agents screen the trains at a border checkpoint, after which UP officers perform their own inspection. When the UP agents find drugs, they alert border agents, after which the railroad is often fined for its trouble. “Our actions should be applauded, not punished,” said Bob Grimalia, UP’s vice president of safety, security, and environment.