SUNLAND PARK, New Mexico (Border Report) – Migrant encounters are down 64% in the El Paso Sector since Title 42 went away on May 12, U.S. Border Patrol Sector Chief Scott Good says.

So is the number of “got aways.” Those are the foreign nationals that surveillance cameras record coming over the border wall and then running off into neighborhoods or the desert. That number is down from 600 to 700 a day before the end of Title 42 expulsions to about 200 now.

“We still have a lot of work to do, but we’re certainly trending in the right direction,” he says. The drop coincides with ramped-up use of Title 8, an older federal statute that bars those who cannot justify their presence in the U.S. from soliciting immigration benefits for five years and allows for the prosecution of repeat offenders.

But when it comes to the New Mexico portion of an El Paso sector, that stretches from Hudspeth County to the New Mexico-Arizona border, migrant activity remains considerable.

Migrant apprehensions are down 34% – only half as much as in the Texas portion –, holes are being cut on older, steel-mesh border wall, and Mexican drug cartels continue recruiting American teenagers to drive migrants to stash houses.

“We’re trying to get funding for reinforcement of the fences, especially in this area,” Good told a meeting of the Border Industrial Association on Friday. “There’s a lot of mesh fence; we need to put concrete (steel) bollards to mitigate the amount of fence cutting that is going on and to reduce got-aways.”

Good told the New Mexico business leaders that most of the irregular migrant activity in their area takes place in the largely uninhabited west, beyond the Santa Teresa Border Patrol Station. But still, 36% of the traffic typically consisting of Mexicans and Guatemalans trying to avoid apprehension takes place in Sunland Park proper. That’s a city where 16,000 people live within sight of a mountain sitting halfway between Mexico and the United States that poses security and safety challenges, even for migrants who often get injured as they come down.

Good said the drop in encounters means the Border Patrol can focus on finding more stash houses – places where smugglers keep migrants who evaded capture at the border wall – and keeping highway checkpoints staffed. That’s where agents stop all traffic to check for citizenship and look for contraband before the vehicles leave the border.

He also told BIA members that the agency continues to expand its migrant-holding capacity.

“As far as processing, we are actually getting another processing facility that will house an additional 1,500 folks where our soft-sided facility already is in El Paso,” Good said. “Those things take manpower to get them up and running, so we still have a lot to do.”

Some of the New Mexico entrepreneurs expressed concern about the threat of the potentially deadly drug fentanyl. The synthetic opioid killed more than 100,000 Americans in 2022 and is highly addictive.

“We have a very big concern with fentanyl nationwide. Our numbers are not the numbers I’ve seen in other sectors; here the numbers are low in fentanyl, but it’s something that is everywhere,” Good said. “We need to continue to teach the children about the dangers of fentanyl.”

The Border Patrol chief urged New Mexico parents to talk to their children about the dangers of consuming illegal drugs like fentanyl and also about not getting involved in migrant smuggling.

“Something I want to really hit home is the smugglers are working really hard to get United States citizen children – adolescents – to drive loads for them and work for them,” Good said. “That’s a slippery slope. Once they get involved with the cartels, it’s really tough to get out of that. We’ve seen vehicle accidents; we’ve seen careless driving. […] Those conversations (between parents and teenagers) need to take place now.”