On the front lines: Southern border

Nightline anchor Dan Harris travels to a Native American reservation that has straddle with Mexico for generation, where struggling tribal members are being enlisted in the drug trade.
3:00 | 05/16/19

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Transcript for On the front lines: Southern border
Next tonight, to the ABC news exclusive tonight, from the southern border. Aby news on the front lines, where a major cartel is taking advantage of impov rishls what they are paying them to do. ABC's Dan Harris is right there on the U.S. Border as the bust plays out. Reporter: We're in the Arizona desert, on a native American reservation. The man in the mask is an undercover federal agent. That is 200 pounds of marijuana. And this is a sting. The agent is posing as a member of the notorious sinaloa drug cartel, which has for years exploited the impoverished native American tribe here. Enlisting members in their relentless efforts to smuggle drugs into America. In just a few minutes, we're expecting a tribe member to pull up in a vehicle and he will load ten bales of marijuana that are out here in the desert with an undercover I.C.E. Agent. Contraband's being loaded into the sedan. Reporter: The smuggler's vehicle then TAKG off, driving further away from the border and deeper into the United States. I'm going in. They're moving right now. Reporter: After trailing the vehicle for several miles, the officers move in. Stopping the car, arresting the suspects. The adrenaline of the chase now gives way to the kind of depressing reality of the people who have been arrested, who do not appear to be drug kingpins. More likely that they're just people without a lot of options, who've got co-opted by one of the most powerful drug cartels on Earth. The reservation of the tohono o'dham tribe takes up 60 miles of the u.s./mexico border. In March alone, the I.C.E. Team seized about 30,000 fentanyl pills and other illegal drugs right here. We drive 100 miles south into Mexico, where the supply chain begins. Here, the cartel pays impoverished migrants, like 17-year-old Elmer, to carry the drugs over the border and onto the Arizona reservation. Reporter: As one young man waits to commit a crime, back on the reservation, we watch as another young man, an American, is arrested. Do you want to talk to grandma before we leave? Yeah. Okay. So, he has a warrant for his arrest. For what? For conspiracy to smuggle narcotics. And Dan Harris is back in new York tonight, after his reporting trip. And Dan, we were talking about this earlier, as long as you have these impoverished communities on the border, don't you have the risk of people being lured in? Reporter: That's exactly right. As long as you have this level of poverty paired with America's insatiable appetite for drugs, it's hard to see the problem go away. Dan, thank you. And again, Dan's full report, his reporting from the border later tonight on "Nightline" after Kimmel right here. Dan, we'll be watching.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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