Fentanyl seizures by U.S. Customs and Border Protection jumped 14 percent from March to April — and have increased more than 400 percent since fiscal year 2019, CBP said in the agency’s monthly operational update.
The potent synthetic opioid is also the first drug in the types tracked by CBP to have already surpassed the amount seized in fiscal year 2023 to date compared with all of fiscal year 2022. The current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.
As of May 3, 17,150.88 pounds of fentanyl have been seized by CBP in FY2023 compared to 14,699.88 pounds seized by the agency in all of FY2022. Just two milligrams of the drug is considered a potentially fatal dose; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 150 people die each day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil.
CBP said that more than 90 percent of fentanyl is smuggled via vehicles passing through the country’s ports of entry.
Seizures of other drugs — marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, khat, ketamine, ecstasy, LSD, and the “other drugs” category including opium and oxycodone — for FY2023 to date still trail their FY2022 totals.
March has been the busiest month for drug seizures overall with 56,180.42 pounds intercepted by CBP. In April, that dropped to 36,067.15 pounds of all drug types seized.
In mid-March, the CBP and Homeland Security Investigations joint surge enforcement effort Operation Blue Lotus was launched to target fentanyl smuggling. That and Operation Four Horseman, a complementary CBP operation focusing on smuggling between ports of entry, pulled in about 5,000 pounds of fentanyl combined in their first month.
In April’s statistics, CBP reported 211,401 overall encounters along the southwest border, up 10 percent from 191,956 in March.
“As part of our planning for the end of the Title 42 public health order, we have surged resources, technology, and personnel to safely and orderly manage challenges along the southern border – while at the same time, maintaining a persistent focus on our other missions to ensure national and economic security,” CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller said in a statement. “The CBP workforce — including the U.S. Border Patrol and the Office of Field Operations — have the experience and professionalism to continue to adapt to changing dynamics. Along with the support of personnel from across DHS and across the federal government, we will continue to meet the moment.”
The Department of Homeland Security was bracing for an expected surge of migrants at the southwest border earlier this month with a new rule on asylum, additional personnel deployed to the region, support extended to communities affected, collaboration with other Western Hemisphere nations, and new messaging to deter migrants from believing or using the services of smugglers.
The CDC’s Title 42 public health order, which allowed the rapid expulsion of migrants who crossed at U.S. land borders in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19, expired May 11 at 11:59 p.m. CBP reverted to enforcing immigration admissibility using Title 8.
CBP said the increase in border encounters from March to April was typical for the time of year, and that April 2023 encounters were down 11 percent from April 2022.
The number of single adults encountered at the southwest border increased by 5 percent this April from the previous month while the number of unaccompanied children decreased 7 percent and individuals who were encountered as part of a family unit increased by 28 percent.