EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Mirroring a national trend, unauthorized migration dropped substantially in the El Paso Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol in the month of October, federal government data shows.

But the number of apprehensions or “encounters” was still almost 60 percent higher than a year ago, which continues fueling Republican rhetoric that illegal immigration remains out of control at the southern border.

The Border Patrol in October stopped 13,992 migrants between ports of entry in an El Paso Sector that extends from Hudspeth County, Texas, west to the New Mexico-Arizona state line. That’s a one-month 21.4 percent drop from September, when the agency took 17,815 foreign nationals into custody.

Nationwide, illegal immigration at the southern border fell 14 percent in October with 164,303 apprehensions compared to the 192,001 reported in September. However, the 12-month fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30 reflects the highest levels ever of unauthorized migration, with 1.7 million encounters at the southern border and 1.9 million nationwide.

Graphic courtesy CBP

U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, who represents East El Paso County and Hudspeth County, said the migrant crisis of 2021 is not over and will be further complicated by new caravans making their way north from Mexico and with the impending arrival of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

“Another migrant caravan, another deadly variant of the COVID virus … It’s Groundhog Day on the southern border,” Gonzales told Fox on Sunday. “Sadly, Border Patrol agents are under attack, being forced to have this vaccine mandate yet here we have this new variant and there’s no testing that’s occurring” on apprehended migrants.

He was referring to a Nov. 22 Biden administration deadline for federal workers to show proof of vaccination or risk being separated from their jobs.

Gonzales said the southern border remains “as open as it’s ever been” and called on the Biden administration to immediately re-start the Migrant Protection Protocols program that forces asylum seekers to remain in Mexico.