MISSION, Texas — Texas has been the center of the border crisis, but Arizona is also in peril and bearing the brunt of Mexican cartels’ smuggling of people into the United States at record-high levels, its governor said.
“What's already happening in Yuma is reflective of what's happening on the Texas border,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in an interview with the Washington Examiner in Mission, Texas. “Arizona is a border state. We faced this before, but we've never faced a crisis this large in 21 years.”
Ducey said the state’s border is “just as out of control” as that of Texas. Border Patrol agents in western Arizona’s Yuma region have encountered 1,038% more suspected illegal immigrants year-over-year.
Yuma, a city of 96,000 residents, has seen 91,841 people illegally cross since the start of the government’s fiscal 2021 year in October 2020 through August. In all of 2020, fewer than 8,100 were apprehended, according to data reported by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Neither of those numbers includes the number of people who evaded law enforcement and got away.
Yuma alone is seeing 1,000 people come across the border daily, a number that would constitute a bad day if that many people came across the entire 2,000-mile southern border, Obama Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson once said.
The eastern half of the state, under Border Patrol’s Tucson office, has seen a 200% increase in encounters — from 57,703 in 2020 to 173,476 over the past 11 months.
“This year, President Biden took the oath of office to become our country's 46th commander in chief. Instead of commanding our military, he's commanded drug cartels and other criminals to wreak havoc on the United States,” Ducey said during a press conference Wednesday.
Federal data show that drug seizures by border authorities in Arizona have not changed much compared to last year. On the other hand, border agents could be missing smugglers because they are overwhelmed transporting migrants in custody to stations, processing them, and watching over those in detention. CBP said earlier this year that approximately half of all agents are not working in the field because they are indoors, leaving the border less secure because fewer agents are in a position to make drug seizures.
Ducey worried that the 60,000 Haitian migrants traveling from South America to the U.S. may cross in Arizona, putting more pressure on federal, state, and local resources.
Ducey activated the National Guard on a border deployment to support local law enforcement assisting at the border in April as human smuggling began to rise. That deployment was extended one year in August. The state legislature approved $25 million for the National Guard’s border mission in June and $30 million for police to work with border authorities.
The state’s border security operations are overseen by the Arizona Department of Public Safety and known as the Border Strike Force. Between May and June, state police seized 55 pounds of heroin, nearly 510 pounds of methamphetamine, nearly 180 pounds of fentanyl, and more than 20 guns.
In recent months, more than 200,000 people have been caught attempting to illegally enter the country by way of the southern border each month. It is far more than the 78,000 encounters in January when President Joe Biden took office and began rolling back former President Donald Trump's border and immigration policies.
The number of illegal crossings at the border has climbed for the past 17 months after dropping dramatically at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. It has risen at a faster rate in the first six months of Biden's tenure than any time in recent history
Despite pandemic policies that require all adults and families to be sent back across the border to Mexico or their country of origin, the Biden administration turned away fewer than half of those encountered in August. More than 103,000 people were taken into custody and were either released into the U.S. or await deportation.