'Unprecedented' Migrant Crossings, Fentanyl Coming Into SoCal: USBP

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA — U.S. Border Patrol agents had a busy year in Southern California.

The USBP’s San Diego Sector patrols 56,831 square miles, including 931 miles of coastal border from the California-Mexico border to Oregon. In Southern California, the area includes Los Angeles, Orange Riverside and San Diego counties.

On Wednesday, the sector announced it experienced “unprecedented activity” this past fiscal year that ended September 30. In total, the sector had 230,941 encounters, “a level of activity not seen in over two decades,” according to the USBP. The figure is up from the previous fiscal year when agents encountered 176,290 people.

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“Encounters” are defined by the federal agency as “apprehensions, inadmissible individuals and noncitizens.”

While most people encountered were single adults, the sector also encountered 49,214 families and 5,198 unaccompanied children, according to the federal agency.

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It is an “unprecedented humanitarian situation at the border,” according to Chief Patrol Agent Patricia McGurk-Daniel.

The uptick is not unique to the San Diego Sector, rather it’s happening across the entire southwest border, according to the USBP.

“In response to high rates of encounters across the southwest border in September, CBP surged resources and personnel. We are continually engaging with domestic and foreign partners to address historic hemispheric migration, including large migrant groups traveling on freight trains, and to enforce consequences including by preparing for direct repatriations to Venezuela,” said Troy A. Miller, the agency’s senior official performing the duties of the commissioner.

The Biden administration has grappled with how to manage migrant families. New enforcement measures and new legal pathways for people from certain countries experiencing humanitarian crises are among the latest procedures. Migrants can also register for an appointment at an official port of entry, but waits are long.

In May, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement rolled out new swift deportation proceedings for migrant families seeking asylum in the United States. The process is considered more humane than detaining families for weeks, but the New York Times spoke to some immigration advocates who say that families seeking asylum “are rushed through their interviews so quickly that they have no time to consult with a lawyer and lose the chance to apply for refuge.”

While McGurk-Daniel says agents are trying to balance the needs of migrant families fleeing from bad situations at home, officials are also tasked with corraling “dangerous and violent smugglers attempting to move illicit drugs and people across our border and into our communities.”

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According to the USBP figures, the San Diego Sector seized 1,285 pounds of fentanyl, 2,100 pounds of cocaine, 111 pounds of heroin, and 1,802 pounds of methamphetamine during the last fiscal year.

The fentanyl total surpassed the previous San Diego Sector record by over 200 pounds, and represented 45% of the fentanyl seized by agents working across the entire southwest border, according to the USBP.

Fentanyl is an easily produced synthetic opiate. It is less expensive than other opiates, highly addictive, about 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.

Mexico and China are the primary sources for fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked directly into the U.S., according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, which has added to the workload of USBP agents across the country.

During fiscal year 2023, USBP seized more than 27,000 pounds of fentanyl nationwide, compared with over 14,600 pounds the previous year. The agency’s overall fentanyl seizures have increased more than 800% since fiscal year 2019, according to the USBP.

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