CBP, Border Patrol Fentanyl Seizures Up at the Southwest Border

West Virginia AG: Agents distracted by a huge increase in illegal migration can’t stop it all from entering

By Andrew R. Arthur on September 15, 2021

A review of CBP’s enforcement statistics reveals two things that are particularly interesting: First, CBP’s seizures of the lethal drug fentanyl are up this fiscal year. Second, most Border Patrol seizures of the narcotic are occurring at the Southwest border, and more of the stuff is being apprehended in wide-open areas near the border than at interior checkpoints. Due to the president’s immigration policies, however, the border is still open for cartels to push death, as a recent lawsuit explains.

This year, CBP has seized a total of 9,337 pounds of fentanyl. Given the fact that two milligrams of fentanyl can be a deadly dose, that is enough to kill two billion-plus people — more than one-third of the world’s population.

Further, through the first 10 months of FY 2021, CBP’s fentanyl seizures are already 94 percent higher than they were in all of FY 2020 (4,791 pounds), and 233 percent higher than in all of FY 2019 (2,804 pounds).

Most of those drugs were seized at the ports of entry, but that should not be confused with the fact that most of the fentanyl is entering the United States come through those ports. Seizures are “known knowns” — they can be measured. Drugs that are not seized are incalculable, the ultimate “unknown unknown”.

There are reasons to believe that there is a significant increase in the amount of fentanyl entering the United States undetected between the ports.

Border Patrol’s nationwide total seizures of fentanyl are only about 10 percent of the CBP total — 887.9 pounds. Almost all of those drugs were seized at the Southwest border, 869.2 pounds, or just less than 98 percent of all Border Patrol seizures.

That makes sense because, as the DEA reported in January 2020, Mexican transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) “are producing increased quantities of fentanyl and illicit fentanyl-containing tablets, with some TCOs using increasingly sophisticated clandestine laboratories and processing methods”.

Border Patrol seizures can occur in one of two ways: Agents can seize drugs at checkpoints (the inland functional equivalent of the border ports through which all vehicles on certain highways must pass), or they can seize them from smugglers they have apprehended at or near the border.

CBP does not break its checkpoint drug seizure statistics into regions, as it does for Border Patrol drug seizures, generally. That said, total Border Patrol nationwide fentanyl seizures at checkpoints totaled 428 pounds — still a significant amount.

Border Patrol at the Southwest border, as noted, however, has seized 869.2 pounds of fentanyl total this fiscal year. Even assuming all the component’s checkpoint seizures occurred at the Southwest border, that means that agents who were not at checkpoints, but who were in the field at or near the border, seized 441.2 pounds of the drug.

Doing the math, that is enough fentanyl to kill more than 100 million people — 30 percent of the U.S. population.

Note that checkpoints are a secondary line of defense — Border Patrol agents there only apprehend people or drugs not stopped by CBP officers at the ports or Border Patrol agents between the ports. One could conclude from that fact that between CBP officers at the ports and agents at the border, frontline CBP workers are apprehending most of the fentanyl that is entering, and checkpoint agents are just picking up the scraps. That is likely not the case, however.

There are about 55 Border Patrol checkpoints. Most are temporary, but there are more than 30 permanent ones on major highways. That may seem like a lot, and they do control major access roads, but there are plenty of back roads that smugglers can take to avoid agents and make it into the interior.

Border Patrol resources are stretched to near the breaking point with the ongoing disaster at the Southwest border (particularly as illegal migrant apprehensions there in July reached new 21-year highs), however, so there is no guarantee that those checkpoints are properly staffed.

That said, during my recent trip to the Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector, I was greeted by agents each of the six times that I passed through nearby checkpoints. As I noted in an August 12 post, however, that was one of the few times that I saw agents in an area where they are traditionally an omnipresent sight.

Which brings me to my main point. Almost 200,000 migrants entered the United States at the Southwest border in July, and many (if not most) turned themselves over to agents as soon as they entered, rationally expecting to be quickly released under Biden administration policies.

Processing and caring for those aliens take a huge amount of agents’ time and resources, which is why Border Patrol is reaching its “breaking point” to begin with. Some 40 percent of agents are now “off the line” (that percentage seemed much higher in Del Rio), meaning they are unable to stop every illegal entrant, including drug smugglers.

How many illegal migrants evade apprehension each month? That’s a good question. The Washington Post reported in August that there have been an estimated 1,000 such “got-aways” per day in recent months, but in July, I referenced a report estimating just 68 percent of migrants who have entered illegally get caught.

If that latter number is correct, it would mean that there were 2,062 daily got-aways at the Southwest border in July. Even taking the lower 1,000-daily count, however, a huge number of aliens entered illegally without getting caught.

Who are they? A large proportion of them could be ordinary “law-abiding” illegal aliens who are coming to work, but even that would mean 50, 100, or 250 of them daily are criminals, including smugglers. Smugglers would be more heavily represented in that “got away” population, because they would have a huge incentive (economic and prison-wise) not to get caught.

That brings me back to my experience in the Del Rio Sector. Del Rio has responsibility over 55,063 square miles, and more importantly, 245 miles of the Southwest border. The sector borders (at Del Rio) the Mexican city of Ciudad Acuña and (at Eagle Pass) the city of Piedras Negras, and many smaller towns in between.

As my colleague Todd Bensman noted in March, the Cartel Del Noreste (CDN) controls the border in the area. Also in March, the DEA identified Piedras Negras as a transshipment site for CDN drugs into the United States.

In June, agents in Del Rio sector apprehended more than 30,700 illegal migrants, a number that grew to more than 33,500 in July. Those numbers represent a 785 and 705 percent increase, respectively, over the same months in 2020. Next to Yuma sector in Arizona, Del Rio saw the largest increases in migrant apprehensions for any sector at the Southwest border, by a long shot.

Do you know how many pounds of cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine Border Patrol agents seized during those months? Zero. Zero in June, and zero in July.

Lest you think that those drugs all flow through the ports, in June 2020, Del Rio Border Patrol agents seized 12 pounds of them in June 2020, and eight the next month. In fact, in July 2019, Del Rio agents seized 122 pounds of the stuff. In March, when Del Rio agents were “only” dealing with just over 20,000 migrants, they managed to seize 55 pounds of coke, meth, and heroin.

None of this is meant to single out Del Rio. It is simply the sector that I visited last, one I know well having been there four years before, and one that has seen a massive surge in illegal migration.

In FY 2017, Border Patrol was everywhere in the sector, and agents caught 13,476 illegal migrants, total. That was likely 95 percent-plus of all illegal crossers.

In August 2021, on the other hand, agents were nowhere to be found, aside from stations, checkpoints, and spots by the river where migrants were turning themselves in. I have no idea how many aliens they apprehended in August (CBP statistics have not yet been released), but in July they were dealing with more aliens every 13 days than they did in all of FY 2017.

And hard drug seizures, across from a DEA-identified cartel importation site, were zero.

The truly amazing thing, however, is not that Border Patrol could not snag any drugs in Del Rio sector in June or July, but that agents along the Southwest border were still able to seize so much fentanyl this year while dealing with a historic surge in illegal migration.

The only logical conclusion is that agents seized so much fentanyl because so much more was flowing across the border between the ports this year than ever before.

The amount of illegal drugs making it onto the streets and into the communities of America and the number of illegal migrants at the border are inextricably linked. Border Patrol agents who are feeding migrants and changing diapers aren’t there to stop the drug smugglers bringing their “product” over the border.

That’s why the West Virginia attorney general is suing DHS for ending the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP, better known as “Remain in Mexico”) “without considering the consequences for the ongoing devastating deadly flood of fentanyl across the Southwest border into this country”.

As he explains:

Fentanyl from Mexico routinely kills West Virginians on a daily basis. ... DHS’s termination of the MPP is a major change that increases the ‘pull factor’ attracting individuals without a lawful right to enter the United States or a legitimate asylum claim to nonetheless travel to and across the Southern border into this country, requiring the attention and resources of the Border Patrol.

In other words, Biden’s border policies are leaving deaths in their wake.

As I have noted before, the president is free to throw out Trump policies that successfully allowed CBP to gain control of the border, so long as he substitutes his own. He hasn’t. A late boss once told me: “It takes a craftsman to build a barn, but any mule can kick one down.”

It does not appear that, when it comes to immigration and the border, there are many craftsmen in the administration. And the people of West Virginia, and towns and states across America, are paying a tragic price.