EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Unauthorized migration is up three-fold in the El Paso Sector compared to last year, as transnational criminal organizations step up their involvement in human smuggling.

The U.S. Border Patrol and the Office of Field Operations have recorded 135,326 “encounters” or apprehensions of unauthorized migrants in the El Paso Sector from Oct. 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021 – the first nine months of the current fiscal year. That compares to the 34,845 encounters reported during the first nine months of FY 2020.

A similar situation is transpiring just east in the Big Bend Sector of Texas.

Big Bend U.S. Border Patrol Chief Agent Sean McGoffin

“Our interdictions are up significantly. The largest amount we’ve had in a year was 9,500; this year we are up close to 30,000. It’s an uptick we have not seen in the past,” said U.S. Border Patrol Big Bend Sector Chief Agent Sean McGoffin.

The federal government is reporting a 313.8% increase nationwide, with 1,076,242 migrants apprehended, though about a third might be individuals who were stopped, expelled, and got stopped trying to cross again.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection website shows more than 750,000 single adults have been apprehended compared to 231,924 who came over as a family and 93,512 unaccompanied minors. Mexicans, Hondurans and Guatemalans make up the bulk of the encounters, although in the El Paso Sector a large number of Ecuadorans have been stopped.

More than 107,000 of the migrants apprehended in the El Paso Sector this fiscal year were expelled through Title 42 authority, Chavez said.

Graphic courtesy CBP

“El Paso’s region is being targeted by transnational criminal organizations,” Border Patrol El Paso Sector Chief Agent Gloria I. Chavez said this month. “The concern is that now these organizations are targeting United States citizen juveniles. These are kids under 18 that are being recruited to do the act of smuggling because they know they won’t face the level of prosecution as an adult.”

Chavez said the Border Patrol is working with the Sunland Park Police Department to discourage teens from hiring themselves out as drivers for migrant smugglers.

The border fence is pictured before Mount Cristo Rey in Anapra, New Mexico, near El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, Saturday April 7, 2018. (PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images)

The El Paso Sector extends from Hudspeth County on the east to the New Mexico-Arizona state line on the west.

Chavez said the Sunland Park-Santa Teresa, N.M., area is the sector’s hotspot for human smuggling. Gangs associated with the old Juarez drug cartel are known to operate on the Mexican side of Mount Cristo Rey – a mountain that straddles the U.S.-Mexico border at Sunland Park and that has always posed a challenge to the Border Patrol.

Both Chavez and McGoffin said rescues of migrants in peril are also up.

“Border security is national security to us. Saving human lives is of paramount importance to us,” McGoffin said. “We’re out talking to the community on how they can contact us. If they get involved in this effort if they tell us what they see it helps improve our situational awareness in terms of security and also to make those rescue efforts.”

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