ARIZONA NEWS

Illegal border crossings are still unsustainably high despite January drop, Arizona sheriff says

Feb 1, 2024, 4:25 AM | Updated: 6:33 am

Cochise county sheriff says illegal border crossings are still too high...

A surge of immigrants illegally passing through openings cut by smugglers in the border wall in 2023 has overwhelmed U.S. immigration authorities, causing them to shut down several international ports of entry so that officers can help process the new arrivals. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels on Tuesday dispelled the notion that the border crisis has calmed down, which a recent report from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) suggested.

CBP said arrests of undocumented migrants fell more than half in the first two weeks of January. However, the amount of people flooding over the border is breaking records.

“It did fall down a little bit after Christmas for about a week or two,” Dannels told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News. “But to put it back in perspective, over last three weeks, we’ve seized, just in Cochise County, over 220 pounds of fentanyl … that’s thousands and thousands of pills going to the community.”

December 2023 was the busiest month in U.S. history for illegal border crossings. That month, Border Patrol officials arrested 249,785 people on the Mexican border.

That was a 31% rise from November’s 191,112. Last year’s December arrest numbers shattered the previous all-time high, which was set in December 2022 with 222,018 arrests.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said she’s leading negotiations on a border deal to clamp down on the surge of illegal border crossings.

“What bothers me most is this bill’s attached to Ukraine’s bill, other bills,” Dannels said, adding that the border alone should be a priority. “We’re in bad shape right now … I mean, this has been allowed to go way too far. It’s gross negligence.”

Illegal border crossings still sky high, Cochise County sheriff says

Dannels said 685 buses full of migrants have driven to his jurisdiction since May of 2023.

“That’s 35,000 people,” he said, adding that his county has a population of around 126,000. “About a third of my population has been released in six months, seven months.”

Cochise County has around 126,000 people, so the influx of migrants accounts for around 33% of the population, Dannels added.

State resources and local non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, have helped to move them along so they aren’t roaming the county’s streets, he said.

“We closed out the last two years with 2,884 people booked into my jail for border crimes,” Dannels said.

There were also 414 pursuits and 556 smuggling arrests, he added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Illegal border crossings are still unsustainably high despite January drop, Arizona sheriff says