U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) today released the agency’s operational update for May 2020, which included CBP’s actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 across borders and to facilitate essential trade and travel while continuing to secure U.S. borders through drug, weapon, and counterfeit seizures.
Enforcing CDC’s Public Health Order
CBP continues to implement effective containment and mitigation strategies to fight COVID-19. Implementation of COVID-19 policies allowed CBP to process and return, in under two hours, 96 percent of those subject to the Order, dramatically reducing human contact, the risk of spread, and the strain on U.S. healthcare facilities, helping the United States avert a public health disaster.
CBP is taking this unprecedented action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as the case count in Latin America is dramatically increasing. On May 22, 2020, the World Health Organization stated that Latin America has surpassed Europe and the United States in the daily number of reported COVID-19 infections and is currently the epicenter of the global outbreak.
CBP Enforcement Numbers
In May 2020, CBP’s enforcement encounters with illegal aliens totaled more than 23,000 individuals, 84 percent lower than the record set in May of 2019, which was 144,000.
CBP enforcement numbers for May 2020 can be found here.
Most illegal alien encounters between our ports of entry are single adult men from Mexico. Last month, 82 percent of our total enforcement encounters were Mexican nationals, while only 13 percent were from the Northern Triangle. Compare that to May 2019, when only 16 percent were from Mexico and 72 percent were from the Northern Triangle.
Simultaneously, CBP officers and Border Patrol agents continued to stop the flow of illicit narcotics across the border. Nationwide, drug seizures rose sharply in May compared to April. Cocaine interceptions, for example, more than doubled. Similarly, seizures of methamphetamine (including crystal methamphetamine) rose by 66 percent. Seizures of marijuana increased by nearly 35 percent and fentanyl seizures went up 11 percent.
“The ongoing construction of the border wall system is imperative for the safety and security of our nation’s Southwest border. Wherever we have built a new border wall system, drug and human smuggling activities have decreased,” said CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan.
Alien Smuggling Operations
CBP also continues to target and dismantle human smuggling organizations. The use of tractor-trailers for this criminal activity continues to rise in places such as the Imperial Valley of California and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. In fact, Border Patrol agents have foiled tractor-trailer smuggling operations every month in 2020.
“Migrants should never listen to the false promises of smuggling organizations, who don’t care about their health and safety,” Morgan said. “It’s a dangerous, potentially deadly journey that will be futile if they survive. If they reach our border, they will be expeditiously sent back and not allowed to stay in the United States. Every day, we fight the smugglers who abuse, exploit, and treat immigrants as a commodity for their own profit – often leaving them behind to die. We are committed to disrupting these unconscionable practices.”
The men and women of CBP continue to perform life-saving rescues of migrants, regardless of their circumstance or status. Rescues more than doubled in May from the previous month, for a total of 445 rescues nationwide. Since the start of Fiscal Year 2020, CBP agents have rescued more than 2,600 individuals in a wide variety of circumstances.
Trade and Counterfeit Seizures
“CBP continues to protect the economic security of the United States by processing cargo, including international mail and express consignment shipments, and is committed to easing the challenges businesses face when importing cargo under these unique circumstances. Open communication with the trade community continues to be a top CBP priority in helping facilitate legitimate trade and the re-opening of America,” Morgan said.
Earlier this year, CBP established the COVID-19 Cargo Resolution Team (CCRT) to facilitate critical shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) and resolve cargo admissibility issues for legitimate trade. Since establishment, the CCRT has responded to 2,200 questions from the trade community and facilitated clearance of 400 FEMA-arranged flights full of critical medical supplies.
President Trump’s April 19 Executive Order gave the Administration the flexibility to allow for a 90-day deferment period on certain payments for entries that occurred during March and April.
CBP has always maintained that economic stability is critical during this crisis. To date, more than 2,600 importers have taken advantage of this relief by deferring payment on $574 million in applicable duties.
Additionally, CBP continues to protect the American people from the dangers of counterfeit and unapproved goods, including those purported to be COVID-related. Since the pandemic began until the end of May, CBP had seized more than:
· 107,300 FDA-prohibited COVID-19 test kits in 301 incidents. These items were either prohibited for not meeting regulatory/legal requirements, or they were potentially unlicensed;
· 750,000 counterfeit face masks in 86 incidents;
· 2,500 EPA-prohibited anti-virus lanyards in 89 incidents; and
· 11,000 FDA-prohibited chloroquine tablets in 91 incidents.