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Top CBP official tells Congress fentanyl seizures at border up 308% in fiscal year 2021

Border, drugs, Mexico, Fentynal
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent weighs a package of Fentanyl at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on October 2, 2019, in San Ysidro, California. - Fentanyl, a powerful painkiller approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a range of conditions, has been central to the American opioid crisis which began in the late 1990s. China was the first country to manufacture deadly illegal fentanyl for the U.S. market, but the problem surged when trafficking through Mexico began around 2005. |

An official with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection told members of Congress Wednesday that fentanyl seizures at the United States-Mexico border have increased by 308% in the fiscal year 2021.

Troy Miller, the senior official performing the duties of commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, appeared before the House Appropriations Committee’s Homeland Security Subcommittee to discuss the continued surge in crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border and the resources that CBP needs to respond to the situation and carry out its duties effectively.

Members of the committee asked Miller questions about various topics, including the seizure of illegal drugs by CBP officials. 

“Our fentanyl seizures are up 308% in fiscal year ‘21,” Miller said.

He also noted that heroin seizures have increased by 14%, cocaine seizures have increased by 100%, and methamphetamine seizures have increased by 20% in the same period.

Miller shared the statistics regarding drug seizures following a question from Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., about “the huge gaping holes in our southern border where we don’t know what’s coming over.”

According to Palazzo, “The COVID pandemic obviously did not keep the cartels from working overtime.”

He cited statistics finding that in the fiscal year 2020, CBP seized “[58,000] pounds of Cocaine, 5,700 pounds of heroin, 177,000 pounds of methamphetamine and 4,700 pounds of fentanyl.”

As Palazzo noted, the amount of fentanyl seized by CBP last year “is enough to kill every American two times over.”

The congressman also expressed concern that “as our CBP agents and others are misdirected,” criminals and hard narcotics have an easier time entering the country. 

As the amount of drugs seized at the border continues to increase, the number of encounters between immigration officials and migrants continues to rise.

CBP Data shows that more than 178,000 migrants were apprehended at the southwest border in April, marking a 3% increase from March, when 173,348 people were apprehended.

So far, in the fiscal year 2021, which began last October, there have been 749,613 encounters at the southwest border. In all of the fiscal year 2020, there were just 458,088 such encounters. In all of the fiscal year 2019, there were over 977,000 encounters. 

Critics of President Joe Biden attribute the surge in border crossings to actions taken by the new administration to reverse the Trump administration’s immigration policies, including his rescission of the former president’s national emergency at the border, the reversal of a policy requiring asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their claims are adjudicated and the suspension of construction of the border wall.

While Biden’s critics have blamed the president for the surge in crossings at the border, some contend that the rise in border crossings is consistent with a pattern of seasonal changes combined with a backlog created by the border's closing during the pandemic. 

Former President George W. Bush pointed the finger at Congress for the situation during a recent appearance on Fox News.

He alleged that “the system is broken because Congress has failed to act.” 

California Pastor Samuel Rodriguez, who heads the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, argued in March that Biden's "words and actions" have “given a haphazard and de facto green light to human traffickers around the world to apply their profane trade on the dreams of the most vulnerable.”

The border surge led to overcrowding at shelters that hold unaccompanied minors who cross the border illegally.

The crowding at CBP facilities, including a facility in Donna, Texas, came as the U.S. continued to grapple with the coronavirus. While the “pods” in the Donna facility had capacities of 260 people, one pod held more than 400 unaccompanied children at one point during the border surge. 

The overcrowding at the Donna facility and other similar locations raised concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, as migrants tested for the virus earlier this year had a higher positivity rate than the American public as a whole.

In Brownsville, Texas, migrant families tested had a 12% positivity rate. At the time, the positivity rate among the American public at large was 3.5%. A group of migrants who arrived at a shelter in Harlingen, Texas, in February reportedly had a 25% positivity rate. 

The border crisis has seemingly reflected negatively on the Biden administration. A Real Clear Politics average of polls taken over the past month shows that most Americans (51%) express disapproval of the president’s handling of immigration policy. 

At the same time, the Real Clear Politics average of polls shows that a majority of the American people (53%) approve of Biden’s performance as president overall. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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