by JULIÁN AGUILAR
More than 40 percent of the drug seizures conducted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents during the 2012 fiscal year occurred on the Texas-Mexico border, according to statistics released Friday.
CBP agents seized about 1.7 million pounds of narcotics in Texas alone, about 270,000 pounds more than their counterparts in Arizona, New Mexico and California combined. Arizona was the second-most active border state, with 1.1 million pounds seized there, and followed by California with 286,000 and New Mexico with 43,000. About 4.2 million pounds of narcotics were seized across the country.
The federal government’s fiscal year begins in October and runs through September of the following year.
Agents in Texas also apprehended more people attempting to enter the country illegally, 172,335, compared with their counterparts in the other states, with Arizona agents apprehending 124,631 people. California and New Mexico’s figures are 54,246 and 5,661, respectively.
The figures reflect an increase in both categories over fiscal 2011, when agents in Texas seized 1.5 million pounds in narcotics and apprehended 119,000 people. Across the country, 365,000 apprehensions occurred, which CBP said is a 50 percent decrease since 2008 and a 78 percent decrease since 2000.
The data comes at a time when President Obama is touting his administration’s commitment to secure the border in an effort to begin a dialogue on comprehensive immigration reform. Republicans have said for years that the conversation can’t be had until the flow of illegal activity on the Southwest border is curbed significantly.
“In 2012, the men and women of CBP played a leading role in making America more secure and more prosperous,” Deputy Commissioner David V. Aguilar said in a statement. “These numbers illustrate the investments made by CBP to improve border security, increase efficiencies, and facilitate the flow of legal travel and trade through our nation’s borders.”
The agency also processed more than $2.3 trillion in trade last year – a slight increase from 2011’s figures.
The activity means Texas land ports continued to be some of the busiest in the country.
About $213 billion in two-way trade passed through the Laredo customs district from January through November 2012, according to WorldCity, a Florida based tracking company that uses U.S. Census Bureau data to compile trade reports. The Laredo trade zone extends from Del Rio to Brownsville, and the amount of commerce means Laredo maintains its ranking as the country’s busiest inland port. About $80 billion passed through the El Paso customs district, which includes the Big Bend and Eastern New Mexico sectors.
JULIÁN AGUILAR reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.
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