McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — As expected, agents in the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley Sector encountered more migrants than any sector along the Southwest border in Fiscal Year 2021, and it was the most ever for the sector since records have been kept, a Border Patrol spokesman told Border Report on Wednesday.
The region captivated the nation and the world this past fiscal year as the epicenter for migrant crossings on the Southwest border as hundreds of thousands of migrants, mostly families and unaccompanied children, began crossing into South Texas after the Biden administration took office.
Fiscal 2021 totals, which were released on Friday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, showed the RGV agents encountered 549,077 migrants — a 508% increase from Fiscal 2020. The sector also had one-third of all encounters in Fiscal 2021 on the southern border, according to the CBP year-end figures.
“It’s the highest in decades since we’ve been keeping track,” Border Patrol Special Operations Supervisor Christian Alvarez said Wednesday.
“The RGV, we’ve led the nation for a couple years now as far as apprehensions, but there was a good increase across the Southwest border,” Alvarez said.
The U.S. Border Patrol and CBP’s Office of Field Operations apprehended a total of 1.74 million migrants Fiscal 2021 on the southern border.
And while other sectors, like Yuma, Arizona, and Del Rio, Texas, saw tremendous percentage increases — 542% and 1,200% increases respectively — most migrants still attempted to cross from Mexico into the United States through the Rio Grande Valley.
Alvarez said crossings are dictated by criminal cartel organizations and human traffickers who decide when and where migrants cross, and how much they have to pay. Human traffickers favor bringing migrant families and unaccompanied children across the border in the Rio Grande Valley, officials say.
“These family units aren’t deciding where they’re going to go. Once they decide to take that trip and leave their home country, they’re placing their lives in the hands of smugglers who at that point will take them from their native countries of Central America and designate where they’re going to go, which stash house they’re going to be dropped off, what route they’re going to take and right now we’re seeing a lot of those families coming towards this part of the country,” Alvarez said.
The cost smugglers charge migrants varies from $3,000 to $5,000 per person, but other “deals” also are offered to lure vulnerable populations, Alvarez said.
“Our intel agents have picked up on two-for-one deals or, ‘If you get caught we’ll waive the fee the second go around.’ They try some things like that,” Alvarez said.
Most migrants are given wristbands identifying the cartel that crossed them and the number of crossings they have already attempted.
Nearly half of all migrants encountered in the RGV Sector, 46%, were families, and 14% were unaccompanied children, according to CBP. Single adults accounted for nearly 40%, but that is far below what some other sectors experienced in Fiscal 2021.
In Arizona, for example, the Tucson Sector had 84% of its encounters with single adults and only 6% with families.
And in West Texas, the El Paso Sector saw a 234% increase in single adults crossing from Mexico.
Traffickers connecting via social media
Social media is fueling a lot of the irregular migration through the Rio Grande Valley, Alvarez said.
Sometimes routes are given, as well as it provides a platform for migrants to directly message the traffickers.
“Social media is big. They’re using social media to entice these people to come here and they’re lying to them saying ‘our organization guarantees that you’ll make it to your destination,’ and that’s how they promote their business,” Alvarez said.
Northern Triangle countries to RGV
As in years past, migrants from the Central American “Northern Triangle” countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador were the largest population to come across in the Rio Grande Valley, however, Mexican nationals also were a large percentage.
The Del Rio Sector, for example, had a significant majority of migrants from Haiti who crossed in that rural South Texas border area, most in the month of September.
According to CBP, 114,429 migrants not from Mexico or the Northern Triangle crossed into Del Rio in Fiscal 2021; that was over 40% of all crossers.
In El Paso, the number of Ecuadorians apprehended was second only to Mexicans.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.