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As Texas resistance grows, illegal entries increase in Arizona, California, New Mexico

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(The Center Square) – As Texas continues to put up resistance at major illegal crossing points at its border with Mexico, illegal entries have increased in Arizona, California and New Mexico where similar policies are not being implemented, officials in Texas say.

Through Gov. Greg Abbott’s border security mission, Operation Lone Star, National Guard soldiers have been working to prevent illegal entry and Texas Department of Public Safety officers have been focused on interdiction. Where illegal entries occur, Texas DPS officers and others in law enforcement have been arresting illegal foreign nationals for committing criminal trespass or other state crimes they may violate.

The goal is to block illegal entry and to ensure consequences for those who get through, Abbott, backed by the state legislature, has said.

“Illegal entry in Texas has consequences,” border czar Mike Banks said, which is why Mexican cartels and transnational criminal organizations are redirecting smuggling operations to Arizona, California and New Mexico, he added, pointing to federal data.

Under Banks, Texas has implemented a “PDI strategy” to position, deter and interdict, he explained to The Center Square. “If you look at the number of illegal border crossings today, Texas counts for 30% of them. The remaining 70% are crossing in Arizona, California, and New Mexico. Why? Because they’re not putting up the resistance that Texas is.”

The U.S.-Mexico border is 1,954 miles long. Texas, which shares the longest border with Mexico of 1,254 miles, or 64% of the total, has historically had the greatest number of illegal border crossings.

Texas also has the most CBP sectors of any state in the country with five. California and Arizona each have two. New Mexico has none but roughly 40 percent of illegal entries in the El Paso Sector of west Texas are from New Mexico, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. An unknown number of gotaways illegally enter in New Mexico, which has significantly fewer agents in the field due to several factors, officials said.

Gotways, those who intentionally illegally enter to avoid capture, are estimated to now total over two million nationwide since January 2021, The Center Square has reported.

When broken down by recent months, illegal entries have increased in California and Arizona and dropped significantly in Texas, according to CBP data. The data refers solely to Border Patrol apprehensions and excludes Office of Field Operations and gotaway data.

In Arizona, in November 2023, Border Patrol agents in the Tucson sector reported 64,637 apprehensions of illegal border crossers; in the Yuma sector, 6,159. In December 2023, apprehensions increased to 80,184 in Tucson and 7,144 in Yuma. Last month, apprehensions dropped to 50,565 in Tucson and 3,735 in Yuma, according to the data.

In winter months, illegal entries generally drop, although they’ve been historically high the past few years compared to previous administrations.

In California, in November 2023, Border Patrol agents in the San Diego sector apprehended 31,164 illegal border crossers; in the El Centro sector, 1,787. In December 2023, apprehensions increased to 34,372 in San Diego and 2,222 in El Centro. In January, they dropped to 24,709 and 1,127, respectively.

In Texas, in November 2023, Border Patrol agents apprehended 22,405 illegal border crossers in the El Paso sector (with 40% coming from New Mexico, an estimated 8,960), 427 in the Big Bend sector, 42,951 in Del Rio, 2,810 in Laredo, and 18,773 in the Rio Grande Valley.

In December 2023, three of the five Texas sectors saw decreases. El Paso and Del Rio saw increases. El Paso agents apprehended 33,966 illegal border crossers (an estimated 13,586 in New Mexico) and in Del Rio, 71,048. Big Bend dropped to 322 apprehensions, Laredo to 2,267 and the Rio Grande Valley to 18,210.

Apprehensions dropped even more statewide last month after Abbott shut down an area in Eagle Pass. In El Paso, over 400 miles west of Eagle Pass, apprehensions were down by half; in Del Rio and the Rio Grande Valley sectors, they were down by roughly a third, according to the data.

Last month, 17,515 illegal border crossers were apprehended in El Paso (an estimated 7,006 in New Mexico), 324 in Big Bend, 16,712 in Del Rio, 2,193 in Laredo, and 7,340 in the Rio Grande Valley.

When comparing the first quarter of fiscal 2024 to the first quarter of fiscal 2023, apprehensions were up nearly 74% in California’s San Diego sector and up by 182% in Arizona’s Tucson sector.

Apprehensions in all Texas sectors are down by comparison over the same time period despite fiscal 2024 apprehensions nationwide reaching the highest on record.

From Q1 FY23 to Q1 FY24, apprehensions in the El Paso sector were down by more than 50%; in Big Bend by nearly 70%; in Laredo by 40%, Rio Grande Valley by 23% and Del Rio by 1%.

“As Texas gains control of an area,” Banks said, “we’re going to maintain that area and we’re going to expand. We’re going to gain, maintain, expand. We’re going to cut off illegal entry into the state of Texas.”

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