US border officials see uptick in drug trafficking from Mexico

Customs and Border Protection's El Paso Sector in 2021 seized more than 4 times the amount of meth seized in 2018

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As traffic grows at the U.S.-Mexico border with the easing of restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic, law enforcement officers are finding increasing amounts of illegal drugs.

Michael Salvatti is the assistant director of U.S. passenger operations at the El Paso Ysleta Border Port of Entry in Texas. He said he's seen thousands of people pass through the port of entry daily. 

"Things are easing back up now, thanks to the easing of travel restrictions," Salvatti told Fox News. 

Borders are back open, after nearly a year of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But now that additional traffic near the Texas-Mexico border includes illegal drugs. And the amounts found are increasing by the day.

Borders are back open, after nearly a year of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But now that additional traffic near the Texas-Mexico border includes illegal drugs. And the amounts found are increasing by the day. (FNC)

He added that the increased traffic generally was good for the U.S. economy, but there’s a downside. 

"Our seizure rates continue to climb," Salvatti said. "Especially when it comes to fentanyl, methamphetamine … we saw drastic increases in that."

In 2021, the El Paso Sector of Customs and Border Protection alone seized more than four times the amount of meth and six times the amount of fentanyl seized in 2018. If the drugs make it across the border, they quickly move across the country.

Borders are back open after nearly a year of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, that additional traffic near the Texas-Mexico border includes illegal drugs. And the amounts found are increasing daily.

Borders are back open after nearly a year of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, that additional traffic near the Texas-Mexico border includes illegal drugs. And the amounts found are increasing daily. (FNC)

"These narcotics are not destined for El Paso. They’re destined for larger metropolitan areas in the United States. They go to where the demand is the highest," Salvatti added.

One of those destinations is the Southeast Texas town of Orange, nearly 900 miles away. The district attorney there, John Kimbrough, said the area was becoming "overrun with meth."

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"I don’t think there’s a family around that doesn’t have somebody that’s impacted by this terrible drug use," Kimbrough added. 

Kimbrough also said the drug use is directly tied to an increase in crime.  

Borders are back open after nearly a year of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That additional traffic near the Texas-Mexico border includes illegal drugs. And the amounts found are increasing daily.

Borders are back open after nearly a year of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That additional traffic near the Texas-Mexico border includes illegal drugs. And the amounts found are increasing daily. (FNC)

"I think last year we indicted about 650 felony cases and probably, I would say probably 500 of those were either meth cases, drug cases, or they were the copper thefts, forgeries, burglaries, things like that. But, we know in looking at it that the person is an addict," Kimbrough said. 

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Kimbrough, like many DAs dealing with similar issues and full dockets, have now turned their focus to drug court and rehabilitation. But he says that isn’t a solution for everyone.

"The big question that you eventually get to when you talk about this is ‘What do we do about it?’" Kimbrough asked. 

This is a question often directed back to the border and officers like Salvatti.

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"It’s a personal issue to me. Every day, I come to work, I come to work with the intention to do everything in my power to encourage my folks and help them to stop as much of this as possible from coming across. It’s a daunting task," Salvatti said.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol recently released its plan for improving operations at the border that includes hiring over 2,000 more officers by 2025.