Del Rio Border Patrol Agents Seized No Hard Drugs in the Last Quarter of FY 2021

Overwhelmed agents can’t stop traffickers — the ‘trout in the milk’

By Andrew R. Arthur on November 2, 2021

In an October 1 post captioned “Drug Seizure Stats Reveal Nationwide Impact of Bad Border Policies”, I reported that Border Patrol agents in the beleaguered Del Rio sector had seized no “hard drugs” (cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl) between June and August. No such seizures were made there in September, either, showing the effect a massive wave of illegal migration in the sector has had on a core Border Patrol mission — keeping narcotics out of the United States.

In that earlier post, I explained that “agents in Del Rio are too overwhelmed dealing with the effects of bad border policies to stop the flow of narcotics into the United States,” and curiously enough, I have been challenged by certain reporters on this point.

My conclusion is based on what lawyers refer to as “circumstantial evidence”, i.e., “direct evidence of a fact from which a person may reasonably infer the existence or nonexistence of another fact”.

It’s possible that the drug cartels moving narcotics into the United States from south of the border have decided to skip the “245 miles of the Rio Grande River and Lake Amistad that forms the border between the U.S. and Mexico” in that sector — it just increasingly isn’t likely.

As I explained when I returned from the sector in August, there were few Border Patrol agents visible in an area that was normally teeming with them. That’s because agents were so overwhelmed processing and caring for migrants who had voluntarily turned themselves in, with the (reasonable) expectation that they would be quickly released.

Apprehensions in the Del Rio sector were up 542.7 percent in FY 2021 compared to the prior fiscal year — the largest increase for any of Border Patrol’s nine Southwest border sectors with the exception of the Yuma sector. From fewer than 40,350 apprehensions in FY 2020, agents there apprehended nearly 260,000 illegal migrants last fiscal year (which ended on September 30).

By way of comparison, Border Patrol provides sector apprehension numbers going back to FY 2007, and in that 15-year period, agents in Del Rio had never apprehended more than 57,500 illegal migrants in any fiscal year (the prior record was 57,269 in FY 2019). FY 2021’s apprehensions were more than 3.5 times larger than that prior record.

Which brings me back to drugs. Between June and September, agents in the Del Rio sector seized just four pounds of marijuana (all in July). No cocaine, fentanyl, meth, or heroin at all.

Marijuana is comparably easier for agents to locate, because marijuana smuggling is a “volume business”. The price of weed is low compared to other drugs, and to make it worth the smugglers’ time, they usually must ship large quantities of that narcotic. In February 2020, Del Rio agents managed to nab 426 pounds of the stuff.

That was the outlier, however, and it is not that unusual for Del Rio agents to seize much smaller marijuana quantities each month, or none at all.

A review of drug seizure statistics from the Del Rio sector, however, shows that harder drugs are more common there — mostly, but not exclusively, meth. Seizures of that stimulant accounted for 329.5 pounds of all hard drug seizures there (out of 387.6 pounds) in FY 2020, 197 pounds in FY 2019 (out of 236.7 pounds), and 133.1 pounds in FY 2018 (out of 217.7 pounds).

That makes sense because, as the DEA explained in its 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment, “Most of the methamphetamine available in the United States is clandestinely produced in Mexico and smuggled across the” Southwest border. Meth seizures at the border as a whole increased 77 percent between 2018 and 2019.

No fentanyl has been seized in Del Rio in the past four fiscal years, so cocaine and heroin make up the difference.

There have been months in Del Rio in which meth, heroin, and cocaine seizures were zero in the past (January and October 2020; January, April, and June 2019; February, March, May, and December 2018), but there have never been three consecutive months in which no seizures of those drugs occurred in the past four fiscal years, let alone four months in a row.

Again, all of this is circumstantial, but still revealing.

Americans’ appetite for illicit substances is hardly on the decline (drug overdose deaths exceeded 93,000 in 2020, more than in any one-year period in American history), and yet Del Rio agents batted zero for four in the final four months of the last fiscal year.

And comparing the presence of agents at the border in Del Rio with the same period four years prior (as I did) is like day and night. Agents were a common sight on the streets and at the border there in 2017. Aside from checkpoints and isolated spots at the river where migrants were turning themselves in, they are absent now. Not “kind of absent” — vanished.

In 1850, when dairy farmers were being accused of watering down their products to increase volume and profits, U.S. essayist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote: “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.” Simple: If there is a fish in the milk, there is likely water there, too.

If the just more than 1,500 Border Patrol agents in Del Rio are apprehending more than 1,452 illegal migrants per day (as they did in September), they don’t have time to do anything else — including stop drugs from entering. Thanks to the fact that Border Patrol agents are overwhelmed by illegal migrants due to policies that encourage (if not facilitate) illegal entry, every town in this Republic is feeling the effects of the drugs agents aren’t seizing — and will pay the price in human lives until those policies change.