By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – While U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and Texas Department of Public Safety officers seized record amounts of narcotics at the southern border last year, it’s only the tip of the iceberg, a retired Border Patrol agent running for Congress says. Far more illicit drugs and illegal weapons are entering the U.S. than are being seized, he said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at eight South Texas ports of entry seized a record amount of illicit drugs last fiscal year, including a 1,066% increase of fentanyl seizures. Texas DPS officers also confiscated enough lethal doses of fentanyl last year to kill at least 200 million people.
The eight ports of entry that agents are responsible for extend from the southern tip of Texas in Brownsville, spanning northwest to Del Rio, a distance of nearly 400 miles. All told, BP agents at these ports of entry seized 87,652 pounds of narcotics worth a combined estimated street value of $786 million.
This included 41,713 pounds of marijuana, 33,777 pounds of methamphetamine and 1,215 pounds of heroin. It also included 8,592 pounds of cocaine, an increase of 98% from fiscal 2020, and 588 pounds of fentanyl, a 1,066% increase from fiscal 2020.
“Our significant gains in fentanyl and cocaine seizures underscore the deadly nature of the contraband we encounter, the need to utilize Personal Protective Equipment to protect our officers and our continued resolve to carry out our vital border security mission,” Laredo Field Office Director of Field Operations Randy Howe said in a statement.
Agents also seized a significant amount of unreported currency, weapons and uncovered numerous immigration violations during fiscal 2021 at these ports of entry. This included $10.4 million in unreported currency, 463 weapons, an increase of 21%t from fiscal 2020, and 84,863 rounds of ammunition. Agents also determined that more than 20,701 illegal immigrants were inadmissible to the U.S. due to violations of immigration law.
But retired Border Patrol agent Frank Lopez Jr., who served in the Del Rio Sector, told The Center Square that what agents are dealing with now is unprecedented in his 30-year career. And the numbers Howe is citing are only at the ports of entry – they don’t cover the areas in-between where the majority of criminal activity is taking place.
“The reported seizures at ports of entry are just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “The southern border between the ports of entry is under the purview of Border Patrol agents but they aren’t able to patrol them. The human tidal wave of illegal immigrants crossing the border has agents ‘chained’ to processing stations instead. As a result, the majority of the U.S.-Mexico border is wide open to the cartels’ drug enterprise.”
A native Texan, Mr. Lopez is running for Congress as an Independent in Texas’ 23rd District. He said he’s running because those in Washington, D.C. aren’t listening to border communities where he’s lived his whole life. It’s the largest district along the U.S.-Mexican border, stretching 820 miles through 29 counties spanning north of Laredo, from San Antonio to El Paso.
As he watches his community overrun with crime, he said, “Americans must demand the Biden administration enforce the law and return to proven immigration policies that allow Border Patrol agents to do their constitutionally mandated jobs to secure the border.”
Through Operation Lone Star, an initiative created by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to curtail criminal activity at the southern border, DPS officers seized 160 pounds of fentanyl, 13,494 pounds of marijuana, 2,430 pounds of cocaine, 1,647 pounds of methamphetamine, and 37 pounds of heroin in roughly nine months.
Their total efforts, including those outside of Operation Lone Star, Texas DPS reported early last December, included seizing 886 pounds of fentanyl, roughly 200,790,522 lethal doses.
They also assisted with at least 165,497 apprehensions of illegal foreign nationals, referring them to Border Patrol, seized 477 firearms and made over 10,000 criminal arrests.
While this is also positive, Mr. Lopez said, it’s also only the tip of the iceberg of what’s really entering the U.S. While state troopers and other law enforcement officers might raid a stash house or interdict drug mules, cartel operatives then take the opportunity to transport drug loads along a different route. They’re monitoring law enforcement communications and operations in order to learn the best time to transport drugs through their network north to evade law enforcement tied up elsewhere.
Local, state and federal law enforcement officers have acknowledged that their interdiction efforts represent only a fraction of what’s being caught – meaning far more drugs and people are illegally entering the U.S. than is known.
From April 2020 to April 2021, there were an estimated 100,306 drug deaths in the U.S., roughly a 30% increase from the number recorded in the same period the previous year, the CDC reported. Fentanyl remains the leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 18 and 45, according to CDC data.
Sixteen Attorneys General have called on the Biden administration to stop the flow of drugs coming from the southern border by putting pressure on China and Mexico.
“China has turned a blind eye as its citizens have forged an international triangle of death with Mexico. Everyone now understands that Chinese drug producers are shipping fentanyl precursors to Mexico, where cartels make them into fentanyl and traffic it overland into the United States,” the AGs wrote in a letter last week to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “But in the face of this evolving and significant problem, the federal government has seemed content to stand by,” they add.
Several Republican Attorneys General have also sued the Biden administration for not enforcing federal immigration law, with Texas suing seven times.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has maintained that the southern border is secure and the administration’s approach to immigration is humane.