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"This is not new." Customs and Border Protection see increase in March migrant encounters and arrests

This fiscal year, CBP has already had over 569,800 encounters.
Credit: AP
Migrants from Central American countries wait to be taken to a Border Patrol intake station after being smuggled across the Rio Grande river in Roma, Texas Tuesday, March 30, 2021. Roma, a town of 10,000 people with historic buildings and boarded-up storefronts in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, is the latest epicenter of illegal crossings, where growing numbers of families and children are entering the United States to seek asylum. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) today released statistics on drug seizures, unaccompanied migrant children and even illegitimate medical goods they encountered in March 2021, which can be viewed here.

“CBP has experienced an increase in encounters and arrests. This is not new. Encounters have continued to increase since April 2020, and our past experiences have helped us be better prepared for the challenges we face this year,” said CBP Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner Troy Miller. 

“We are committed to balancing the need to maintain border security, care for those in our custody, and keep the American people and our workforce safe.”

CBP Enforcement Numbers

In March 2021, CBP encountered more than 172,000 persons attempting to enter the country along the Southwest border. This is a 71 percent increase over February 2021.The number of encounters at the border has been rising since April 2020 due to reasons which include violence, natural disasters, food insecurity, and poverty in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of Central America.  

This fiscal year, CBP has already had over 569,800 encounters.  

This represents an increase of 24 percent from the total encounters we had during all of Fiscal Year 2020, when migration was limited by the COVID-19 pandemic, and an increase of over 34 percent from approximately the same time frame of Fiscal Year 2019.

The majority of the encounters on the Southwest border remains single adults, CBP officials said. Single adults and family units that are found are expelled under Title 42 authority, which states CBP can prohibit the entry of certain persons who potentially pose a health risk . 

In March 2021, CBP expelled 103,900 individuals under Title 42, 28 percent of whom were individuals who had been previously expelled from the United States under the same authority. Title 42 expulsions represented 60 percent of the total encounters for the month. 

RELATED: Number of kids alone at border hits all-time high in March

Unaccompanied Children

CBP officials say they continue to see a significant increase of unaccompanied children from Central America at the Southwest border, with 18,890 in March 2021 – a 100 percent increase over February. 

Although less than 11 percent of encounters in March were unaccompanied children, they make up the largest demographic group of individuals in custody at CBP facilities. 

CBP works in close coordination with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials to quickly transfer processed unaccompanied children to Care Provider Facilities. As bed capacity at these facilities has expanded, the 30-day average of children transferred out of CBP custody has increased, from 276 at the end of February to 507 at the end of March.

Large Groups

CBP has recently seen a return to encounters of large groups, especially in the Rio Grande Valley region. 

RELATED: Gov. Abbott gives update on 'Operation Lone Star' at the Texas border

These groups of 100 or more individuals had dropped dramatically due to the pandemic, from 216 in Fiscal Year 2019 to 10 in Fiscal Year 2020. As of the end of March 2021, CBP recorded 49 large group encounters in Fiscal Year 2021, totaling over 4,700 individuals.

Drug Seizures

CBP officers, Border Patrol agents, and Air and Marine Operations agents continue to interdict the flow of illicit narcotics across the border. Nationwide, drug seizures were down by 14 percent in March from February 2021. 

Cocaine interceptions increased 26 percent. Seizures of methamphetamine increased 91 percent. Seizures of heroin went up 22 percent and seizures of fentanyl decreased by 28 percent.Additional CBP drug seizure statistics can be found here.

Effects of COVID-19 on CBP Personnel

Officials said the safety of their workforce, communities, and individuals in their care is a top priority.  

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 8,300 CBP employees have tested positive for COVID-19, and 28 have passed away. 

CBP say they are focused on providing access to the COVID-19 vaccine to their workforce. They are collaborating with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Homeland Security to expedite the delivery of vaccinations to personnel.

Trade and Counterfeit Seizures

Illegitimate medical supplies and other goods due to the COVID-19 response have also been seized this month. CBP agegnts must verify the medical goods are authorized and safe for use. As part of that effort, CBP is catching fraudulent and unauthorized goods that could harm the health and safety of Americans. 

Between Jan. 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, CBP seized:

  • Nearly 178,000 FDA-prohibited COVID-19 test kits in 417 incidents. These items were either prohibited for not meeting legal requirements, or they were potentially unlicensed,
  • More than 34.6 million counterfeit face masks seized in 707 incidents,
  • 37,000 EPA-prohibited anti-virus lanyards in 118 incidents,
  • Nearly 39,000 FDA-prohibited chloroquine tablets in 233 incidents,
  • Nearly 6,700 tablets of antibiotics, such as azithromycin in 111 incidents, and
  • Approximately 300,000 containers of hand sanitizer in 36 incidents.

For the latest updates on coronavirus in the Coastal Bend, click here.More from 3News on KIIITV.com: