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Thursday, June 8, 2023

Border Encounters Hold Steady While CBP Reports Big Spikes in Heroin, Fentanyl Seizures

More than 40,000 migrants -- with Venezuelans and Haitians using it most -- have scheduled a port-of-entry appointment via CBP One, with more waiting.

The number of individuals encountered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the southwest border held steady during the month of February as officials said the parole program for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans has resulted in a weekly average 98 percent drop in encounters between ports of entry with individuals from those countries.

The seizure of heroin increased 99 percent, fentanyl seizures rose by 58 percent, and  methamphetamine seizures by CBP officers, Border Patrol agents, and Air and Marine Operations agents increased 22 percent last month. With an 18 percent drop in cocaine seizures, nationwide CBP seizures for all drugs increased 6 percent from January to February.

And while the number of family units encountered at the border decreased by 13 percent last month, the number of unaccompanied migrant children rose 16 percent, according to the latest CBP statistics.

Encounters with unaccompanied children dropped 23.5 percent in the January report, with 9,393 encounters in January compared with 12,283 in December. CBP reported 10,870 in February. While an average of 570 unaccompanied children were in CBP custody per day in December, that dropped to 334 per day in January and increased to 438 per day in February.

Overall, encounters with CBP between ports of entry dropped from 221,675 in December to 128,913 in January — the lowest figure since February 2021, when migration flows began increasing after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In February, 128,877 encounters made January and February almost even — numbers that CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller attributed to the new border enforcement measures launched at the beginning of the year.

“We are also encouraged by the new functionality in the CBP One mobile application, which has provided migrants the ability to safely and easily schedule an appointment at a Port of Entry to request a humanitarian exception to the Title 42 public health order,” Miller said. “The app cuts out the smugglers and decreases migrant exploitation. CBP continues to make improvements to the app to address feedback we have received from stakeholders.”

The use of the CBP One app, which allows travelers and stakeholders to access CBP mobile applications and services, was expanded in January to let migrants approaching the southwest border make an appointment at a point of entry to seek an exemption to the CDC’s Title 42 public health order. Through the app, they can submit certain biographic and biometric information to CBP and make an appointment up to 14 days in advance at the ports of entry in Nogales, Brownsville, Eagle Pass, Hidalgo, Laredo, El Paso, Calexico or San Ysidro.

More than 40,000 individuals — with Venezuelans and Haitians using it most — have since scheduled an appointment via CBP One. In February, CBP processed more than 20,000 individuals at ports of entry through the CBP One assessment. “While the high demand for these appointments has meant that not all individuals seeking appointments have yet been able to schedule them (individuals commonly waited more than three months in shelters to be considered under the Title 42 exception process before the use of CBP One), the transition of the exceptions process to CBP One allows more open access and has provided immediate benefits in reducing the exploitation of vulnerable persons seeking to present at POEs,” CBP said.

During February, 22,755 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans, including immediate family members when applicable, were paroled into the country through the processes established for Venezuelans in October and expanded in January.

The parole process for Cubans, Nicaraguans, and Haitians went into effect on Jan. 6. Eligibility for the new process is considered on a case-by-case basis; the program allows for advance authorization to travel to U.S. and seek up to two years of parole if the individual has a financial supporter in the United States, passes robust security vetting, and meets other criteria. At its inception, DHS said that up to 30,000 people per month from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua will be admitted under the parole and work authorization program, with DHS vowing “significant consequences for those who fail to use those pathways.” Mexico agreed to accept returns of 30,000 individuals per month from these four countries if they don’t go through the new process.

“Encounters of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans between Ports of Entry at the southwest border declined from a 7-day average of 1,231 on the day of the announcement on January 5, to a 7-day average of 46 on February 28—a drop of 98%,” CBP reported.

CBP also reported 53,552 unique border encounters with migrants from Mexico or North Central America in February compared to 52,109 in January.

Nationwide, for fiscal year 2023 year-to-date, CBP reported 1,285,056 total border encounters as of last month.

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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