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When Gov. Greg Abbott announced in May that his office would build a wall on the Texas-Mexico border – and again on Wednesday when he traveled to the border with former President Donald Trump – he said a growing number of apprehensions by border patrol agents and seizures of the drug fentanyl necessitated the construction of a state-funded border wall.
In May, Abbott said that in the first four months of this year, the Texas Department of Public Safety saw a significant increase in seizures of fentanyl from 2020. After having had no seizures of fentanyl in 2017, 2018 and 2019, Abbott said, DPS seized 52 grams in 2020. So far this year, soldiers have already seized 137 grams, he said.
In a declaration of disaster in June, the governor said: “President Biden’s open border policies have paved the way for dangerous gangs and cartels, human traffickers and deadly drugs like fentanyl to pour in. in our communities.
But immigration and drug treatment experts say the governor and former president oversimplified and misinterpreted the fentanyl apprehension and seizure numbers.
“The idea that the border was somehow calm before President Biden took office is completely false,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, an analyst at the American Immigration Council, a Washington, DC group that advocates for immigrants.
Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for comment Thursday evening.
Reichlin-Melnick said migrant apprehensions and seizures of fentanyl have also increased under the Trump administration. Under the Trump administration, arrests of migrants rose to 150,000 at the border in one month in 2019. The highest total to date under the Biden administration was last month, with 180,000 arrests.
He added that the increase in apprehensions of both migrants and drugs is a sign that the border is safer now than 20 years ago, when there were fewer border officials and less sophisticated technology. protecting the border.
“Ironically, this is something that someone who is pro-border wall doesn’t like to talk about,” he said. “If you want the border to be more secure, you want the border patrol to apprehend more people crossing the border. “
Jessica Bolter, associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank, said the current immigration debate focuses on the overall number of apprehensions and does not take into account two other important metrics: many migrants are repeatedly apprehended, which means that the number of arrests does not reflect the actual number of individuals attempting to cross the border.
“There is a higher level of migration activity at the border that we haven’t seen in 20 years,” she said. “But at the same time, we are also seeing an increase in the number of repeat offenders, and the number of apprehensions does not take into account unique individuals.”
Many recent apprehensions relate to repeat transgressors who have been deported to the US side of the border under Title 42, which allows immigration officers to return migrants to the Mexican side rather than arresting them.
Reichnlin-Lemnick said that in fiscal 2019, of the unique individuals who crossed the border, 6.7% were repeat transgressors. In fiscal year 2020, this number increased to 26%. And in FY2021, so far, 40% of apprehended migrants have crossed the border at least twice.
Bolter said building a wall would not stop illegal immigration, but instead force migrants to attempt to cross into more remote – and often more dangerous – areas.
Biden’s softer tone on immigration – and his overthrow of most of Trump’s harsh immigration policies – may have encouraged some people to try to enter the United States illegally, Bolter said. But the biggest motivating factor are the dire situations in Central America, such as gang violence, government corruption, climate change which has damaged crops in many areas and the effect of the pandemic on the economies of their countries, she said.
“Based on the history of the border walls, what we have learned is that the walls don’t stop illegal immigration, it just tends to be diverted to other areas,” he said. she declared.
According to the 2020 National Assessment from the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s Drug Enforcement Administration, seizures of fentanyl have increased along the southwestern border since at least fiscal 2016. Between 2018 and 2019, when Trump was president, US Customs and Border Protection have reported a 62% increase in seizures of fentanyl along the southwest border, from 745 kilograms to 1,208 kilograms.
Daniel Ciccarone, professor of community family medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, said fentanyl is primarily seized at points of entry and in some cases by the US Postal Service.
“So the wall is unnecessary,” he said, adding that the United States “is spending a lot of money trying to stop the flow of drugs” and although “it is not a complete waste of ‘money, it doesn’t work as well as us “I’d like to too.”