He grew up poor in Nogales, Mexico, just across the border from Arizona. His dad died when he was a teen, his mother worked as a cook. He couldn't afford the things he wanted. There weren't many jobs for a guy like Pancho, as he calls himself.
But there was a steady gig that paid $2,000 a week - smuggling marijuana across the U.S.-Mexico border - and Pancho took it. He's 29 now, a father of five, and he says he works long hours to support his family, "so that they won't be in need." It's a risky life, but he's done it for 12 years, and he doesn't think anything President Donald Trump does about a border wall will stop the illegal narcotics trade.
"No matter what you do here, we can still get through," said Pancho, while sitting in the dim light of an abandoned tenement just a few minutes south of the border. It was cold and damp, and he sat hunched in a chair in a musty room with a dirty old mattress and newspapers scattered across the floor. The fence along the border used to be shorter, he recalled. It's higher now, but that's no impediment.
Smugglers always seem to find a way around such obstacles - over, under or around. US law enforcement agents know this.
"Drugs will come in through every direction," said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada in Nogales, Ariz., located just across the border. "They'll throw the drugs over the fence. They'll push them through." That or they will tunnel beneath or send people deep into the mountains, where the fence is less obtrusive.
RELATED: Trump's Wall Would Block Animals More Than People
"These cartels, they're a 24/7 business, thinking of ways to bring drugs across," Estrada continued. "They'll do it through the ports of entry, the Mariposa commercial port. You know, they'll get a ton, two tons of marijuana come in on some of those trailers."
The drug smuggling is unrelenting.
"Illegal immigration pales compared to the drug problem that we have," Estrada said. He started in law enforcement 50 years ago. Back then, "they told me it was going to take three generations to wean people off of drugs. We're worse off than we were then, and it's not getting any better."
On a typical day, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) nabs an average of 7,910 pounds of drugs. Last year, U.S. border agents seized 5,473 pounds of cocaine, 8,224 pounds of methamphetamine, 9,062 ounces of heroin and 1.29 million pounds of marijuana.