FederalImmigration & BorderHeroin and Methamphetamine Seizures at the Border Increased in Fiscal Year 2019

On top of a 12-year high for illegal immigrant apprehensions, drug seizures and human trafficking remain a constant problem along the Texas border.
October 22, 2019
As the 2020 fiscal year officially begins amid an ongoing border crisis, statistics from previous years provide critical insight for what is really happening at the border and more specifically, the ramifications for Texas. 

While border statistics from Fiscal Year 2019 reveal apprehension levels of illegal immigrants not seen in over 12 years, drug seizures and growing instances of human smuggling along the border remain extremely prevalent activities.

An assessment of nationwide drug seizures along the border shows that marijuana confiscations have steadily declined since 2014 when almost 2 million pounds were reported.

At 245,000 pounds seized nationwide, however, this amount is still 18 times greater than any other drug seized by Border Patrol during the course of FY 2019. 

Two other drugs, methamphetamine and cocaine, both saw an increase during 2019, ranking as the second and third most confiscated drugs with seizure volumes of more than 11,000 pounds and 13,000 pounds respectively. 

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Methamphetamine, specifically, has seen a steady increase ranging between approximately 1,000 and 3,000 pounds over the last six fiscal years. 

By comparison, other drugs, like heroin and fentanyl, have been seized in lower quantities since 2016 with consistent nationwide seizure volumes of less than 1000 pounds.

However, with a potency 50 times that of heroin and 100 times that of morphine, one of the greatest dangers of the synthetic drug fentanyl is the small amount required to produce a given result, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), 2 milligrams of fentanyl is considered a lethal dose for most people.

When comparing this standard to the 210 pounds (95.2 million milligrams) seized by CBP in FY2019, the amount seized is enough to produce more than 47.6 million lethal doses. 

The Rio Grande Valley (RGV) sector, specifically, where just last month the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced 65 miles of new border wall are scheduled to be built in 2020, is classified by CBP as the busiest Border Patrol Sector in the nation.

Stretching across 19 counties and encompassing more than 17,000 square miles, the RGV sector ranks first among cocaine and marijuana seizures. 

During Fiscal Year 2018, the RGV sector reported confiscating more than 204,000 pounds of marijuana and nearly 2,000 pounds of cocaine. 

By comparison, the nationwide total of marijuana and cocaine seized during the same time frame was close to 461,000 pounds and 6,550 pounds respectively, meaning the RGV sector accounted for approximately 44 percent of the nationwide total of marijuana seized and 28 percent of the nationwide total of cocaine seized during the course of that fiscal year. 

Drug seizures, however, are not the only noteworthy border statistics, as CBP reports that the RGV sector accounts for nearly 40 percent of all border apprehensions as well. 

Instances of human smuggling and human trafficking have become an increasingly used tactic of gaining entry into the U.S. since the expansion of the Flores Settlement Agreement in 2015 that effectively removed the 20-day limitation on detention for family units.  

Just last month, Border Patrol agents at the Uvalde Station in Del Rio cared for a smuggled toddler after further investigation revealed the “family unit” to be fraudulent and the two individuals in question to be unrelated to the child. 

“Of all the people that smugglers exploit, children are the most vulnerable,” Del Rio Sector Chief Patrol Agent Raul. L. Ortiz said regarding the case. 

Border apprehension from last year further emphasizes this phenomenon, as the numbers reveal a notable increase in the number of family unit apprehensions specifically.

Data shows that more than 457,000 individuals who arrived at the southern border in FY2019 and were taken into custody were labeled as family units.

By comparison, data from 2018 reported approximately 107,000 family units, while 2016 and 2017 saw less than 80,000 total family unit apprehensions respectively. 

Additionally, during the first five months of FY2018, DHS reported a 315 percent increase in the exploitation of children used for the purpose of posing as a family unit to gain entry into the United States. 

“These children are being used as pawns by criminals to take advantage of loopholes in our immigration laws and avoid being detained by U.S. immigration authorities. HSI and Border Patrol will continue to protect children from being smuggled, as well as aggressively target, identify and stop criminal organizations from generating false documents and exploiting innocent children,” Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) El Paso Jack P. Staton said. 

In Texas, just last week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) HSI Division in El Paso reported identifying more than 200 fraudulent families in the last six months.

In addition to the frequent exploitation of children, a 2017 report from Doctors Without Borders found that over two-thirds of individuals arriving in Mexico while en route to the United States reported being victims of violence with one-third of women reporting instances of sexual abuse on their journey.


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Sarah McConnell, Reporter for The Texan

Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.