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Drug seizures increase as immigrant arrests fall

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Drug seizures increase as immigrant arrests fall

Az apprehensions hit 17-year low

  • A Tucson Sector Border Patrol agent with seized bundles of marijuana.
    U.S. Customs and Border ProtectionA Tucson Sector Border Patrol agent with seized bundles of marijuana.

Narcotics seizures on the country’s borders increased by 20 percent during the 2011 fiscal year, with Arizona and Texas ports seeing the most contraband among border states.

In all, about 1.5 million pounds of narcotics were seized in Texas, 1.2 million pounds in Arizona, about 332,130 pounds in California, and 55,260 pounds in New Mexico, according to year-end statistics released Monday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Meanwhile, apprehensions of illegal immigrants fell to their lowest levels in decades, the data shows. About 340,250 illegal immigrants were apprehended nationwide last fiscal year, compared to 463,380 in 2010, about a 26 percent drop.

There were about 327,580 apprehensions on the southwest border, including about 129,000 in Arizona and 119,000 in Texas. California and New Mexico saw 72,600 and 6,900 apprehensions, respectively.

The 129,118 apprehensions in Arizona marked a 41-percent decrease from the previous year. The number of illegal crossers caught in the fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, was down 63 percent over the last seven years, CBP data show.

The total arrested in Arizona, including apprehensions in the Tucson and Yuma sectors, is the lowest in 17 years, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin said in a statement.

The agency says that of those apprehended, about 87,300 had criminal records and convictions. The dip in apprehensions, the agency has said, reflects that illegal immigration has dropped overall.

"These numbers illustrate the investments made by CBP to improve border security, increase efficiencies and facilitate the flow of legal travel and trade through our nation’s borders and land ports of entry,” Bersin said.

Trade at all ports increased by 14 percent compared to 2010, to about $2.3 trillion, though it is unclear how much trade came through the southwest border. WorldCity, a Florida-based  media company that tracks trade through more than 240 countries, estimates the value of trade that moved through the Laredo customs district from  January through September exceeded $153.7 billion.

The El Paso customs district was the second-busiest trade partner with Mexico, with $57.8 billion passing through that port during the same time period, according to WorldCity. And, overall, the U.S. traded about $341.7 billion with Mexico from January to September 2011.’s Janet Rose Jackman contributed to this story.

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