Pictures of the filth-strewn migrant camp erected by a tidal wave of migrants that crashed on the banks of the Rio Grande in Del Rio, Texas, in the past few weeks will likely soon be forgotten. The chaos that has been reigning there for months, however, will leave its mark on emergency rooms, mortuaries, and family gatherings nationwide for years to come. That’s because 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.
I returned to Del Rio in August after a four-year absence. As I explained when I got back, there was no evidence of a border there. Border Patrol agents, normally ubiquitous in that border town, at the river, and on the roads, were absent. They were simply too busy processing migrants and heating baby bottles to perform their core mission of stopping drugs and migrants from flowing in.
It wasn’t the agents’ fault, or even that of their immediate supervisors. They had told the Biden administration as early as June that they were overwhelmed and needed help. The White House’s response? As CNN put it on September 23, “Their calls for increased resources appear to have gone unmet until recent days.”
In other words, “We don’t care.” The disdain that this administration has for those agents is clear from the dudgeon key figures (including the president) expressed in response to the “horse incident”, where ambiguous photos of agents on horseback attempting to halt the entry of migrants were interpreted as reflective of the darkest moments from our nation’s history.
That was likely done for political cover, but I no more want to judge the motivations of those officials than I do the actions of those agents before the facts become clear. If only those officials had extended this same courtesy to the agents whose pleas for help they ignored.
There were just over 1,500 agents in Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector in FY 2020 (current numbers are not available). That’s a decline of just less than 200 since FY 2009.
In all of FY 2009, the 1,682 Border Patrol agents in Del Rio sector apprehended 17,082 illegal migrants. In August 2021 alone, agents there apprehended nearly 32,400, slightly fewer than in July (more than 33,500). In just two months, apprehensions in Del Rio were 285 percent greater than they had been in FY 2009, total.
Respectfully, the Biden administration did not need an SOS from local Border Patrol leadership to know that there was a problem; the numbers themselves make that clear. But migrant apprehensions are not the only numbers that show how bad the situation in Del Rio is.
Look at the drug seizure statistics in the sector. In August 2020, agents there seized 35 pounds of hard drugs: Cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. In August 2020? Zero pounds of those narcotics and stimulants. They nabbed one pound of marijuana, likely as much as your local “dispensary” sells in a day.
In fact, Del Rio Border Patrol agents have apprehended no hard drugs since June. No fentanyl, no cocaine, no heroin, no meth.
This fiscal year, though, agents in Del Rio have seized just short of 255 pounds of heroin and meth. Some 66 percent of those seizures (168 pounds) occurred between November 2019 and March. Of the almost 215,000 migrant apprehensions in Del Rio sector thus far in FY 2021, just 28 percent of them took place during those months. Do you see a pattern? I do.
When agents are not facing a deluge of illegal immigration, they can seize migrants and drugs. When they are overwhelmed with the processing and care of tens of thousands of migrants each month, however, something’s got to give.
How do I know that drugs continue to flow across the border? Look at CBP’s Office of Field Operations’ Laredo unit. It has responsibility over, among others, the ports of Del Rio and Eagle Pass (also in Del Rio sector). In the first 11 months of FY 2021, seizures of cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and meth there were up 13 percent over all of FY 2020, and up 43 percent over all of FY 2019.
Those hard drugs not only continue to flow across the border from Mexico, but the flow is also increasing, as these statistics show. Do you think that the cartels are simply giving the overworked Border Patrol agents in Del Rio a break, and opting for the much riskier choice of sending loads through the ports? If you do, I have oceanfront property in Del Rio to sell you (and I will throw in a bridge).
What does all of this have to do with immigration? Plenty.
In a September 11 letter to Senate leadership, the prior Border Patrol chief, Rodney Scott, explained how “plaza bosses” working for criminal organizations on the Mexican side of the river “script and control” illegal entries to create “gaps in border security” that those groups can exploit to smuggle “contraband” across.
It’s the perfect business model for the cartels. For the United States? Not so much.
There were more than 93,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States in FY 2020, an all-time high and an almost 30 percent increase over FY 2019. Overdose deaths involving meth have nearly tripled in four years, and last year some 57,550 people died overdosing on synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl — a 54 percent increase from 2019.
Maryland: 2,761 overdose deaths in 2020; Indiana: 2,267; Kentucky: 2,104; Colorado: 1,512; and West Virginia: 1,331. None is near the Southwest border, but each feels the effects of it.
Not even counting the hell that was 2020, CDC reports that almost 841,000 in the United States have died from overdoses since 1999. That is larger than the population of Seattle, and bigger than the number of people who live in either North Dakota, Alaska, D.C., Vermont, or Wyoming. If I were to tell you that something would kill off every person in Vermont or Seattle in the next 20 years, you would stop it.
“The primary mission of the Border Patrol is to protect our nation by reducing the likelihood that dangerous people and capabilities enter the United States between the ports of entry,” according to the component’s website.
Illicit drugs are plainly a “dangerous capability”, but agents increasingly lack the capacity to stop them from entering because poor Biden administration policies are encouraging the illegal entry of increasing numbers of migrants.
The president has two choices: He can massively increase the resources that are available to agents to handle that new migrant flow (including detention), or he can change his immigration policies. He is asking Congress for $467 million less in FY 2022 than CBP received this fiscal year (a 3.10 percent decrease), however, so that leaves one option: Change the policies, and save tens of thousands of Americans.