Nation: Yankees Come Home

The largest transfer of convicts begins—but all is not forgiven

In 1969, President Richard Nixon declared an international "war on drugs," then pressed the Mexican government into joining the battle by cracking down on illegal narcotics traffic across the border. Mexico obliged with a vengeance, throwing into jail hundreds of American violators; most of them were "mules," who had been smuggling large amounts of cocaine from South America or marijuana from Mexico. A 13-year sentence—with no chance of parole—was not uncommon for a first offender. "Operation Intercept," as the border crackdown was dubbed, quickly turned into a publicity disaster for Mexico....

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