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EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The U.S. Border Patrol has detained twice the number of criminal migrants in the first six months of fiscal year 2021 as it did in all of 2020, newly released U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows.

Among these were 265 sex offenders, 576 individuals convicted of assault, battery and domestic violence and 982 drug offenders. The bulk of the arrests (2,765), though, involved illegal entry or illegal re-entry after a previous deportation.

The Border Patrol also reports large increases in seizures of marijuana and methamphetamine – which are the Mexican drug cartels’ primary money staples. This, as transnational criminal organizations try to take advantage of federal agents being tied up coping with the ongoing migrant surge to sneak drugs, and sometimes criminal associates, across the border.

“We have seen an incremental increase in narcotics between the ports of entry since the beginning of the fiscal year. Although there are still restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, drug trafficking organizations are increasing their smuggling tactics between the ports of entry taking advantage of the high flow of people entering illegally into the United States,” CBP told Border Report in a statement this week.

Last March, CBP encountered more than 172,000 persons attempting entry along the Southwest border. This total represented a 71 percent increase over February 2021. CBP this year has already recorded over 569,800 “encounters,” or apprehensions of unauthorized migrants. This represents an increase of 24 percent compared to total encounters during all of fiscal year 2020, and an increase of more than 34 percent from the same time frame of fiscal year 2019. 

The Border Patrol has detained a total of 5,018 criminal immigrants since Oct. 1, 2020, compared to 2,469 in fiscal year 2020. That’s on pace to overtake the 8,531 arrests of criminal immigrants made in all fiscal year 2017.

CBP Graphic

When it comes to the seizure of illegal narcotics, total drug seizures were down 14% in March compared to February. However, seizures of methamphetamine – a drug linked to America’s opioid overdose epidemic — skyrocketed by 91%, cocaine seizures went up 26% and heroin seized rose by 22%, CBP figures show.

CBP Graphic

“The cartels are changing their game plan faster than (U.S. law enforcement) can keep up. That’s a safety and security issue for our families not only here on the border but across this country,” U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, said during a recent tour of the U.S.-Mexico border. “We just sat down with law enforcement officials from this community (Eagle Pass, Texas) and they’re telling us their resources are strapped; they’re being outspent by the cartels.”

Hinson called on the Biden administration to send resources to law enforcement, as the security crisis outlined by border sheriffs and some local officials is getting overshadowed by a migrant surge that’s getting most of the headlines.

“The Biden administration and Democrats in Congress want the American people to believe the crisis at the border is nothing more than families and children, but these numbers show that’s far from the whole story,” added U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-New Mexico, whose district includes El Paso neighbors Sunland Park, Santa Teresa, Anthony and Las Cruces, New Mexico. “Criminals and the cartels are exploiting the overworked and undermanned Border Patrol to illegally enter the country.”

El Paso and Tucson, Arizona, see steady migration increase

While illegal immigration remained steady in the El Paso Sector in October and November, it has increased substantially in February and March, CBP data shows.

Federal agents in the El Paso Sector detained a total of 13,181 single adults, unaccompanied children and migrant families in February and 19,457 in March, compared to 10,617 in January. Tucson saw nearly identical spikes, going from 10,751 apprehensions in January to 14,642 in February and 19,835 in March.

U.S. Border Patrol officials give a visiting delegation of Republican lawmakers a tour of a command center in Eagle Pass, Texas. (photo courtesy U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales)

Most unaccompanied minors and family units detained in the past six months consist of Guatemalan, Honduran and El Salvador nationals, but most single adults are overwhelmingly Mexicans, the data shows.

Single adults and migrant families detained in the sector are being sent back to Mexico under the Centers for Disease Control and Protection public health Title 42 rule. In South Texas, though, a lot of families with small children are being released and allowed to pursue asylum claims inside the United States.

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