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Narcotics Seizures Increase as Immigrant Apprehensions Drop

Drug seizures are up but illegal immigrant arrests are falling on the southern border, according to data released today by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

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Narcotics seizures on the country’s borders increased by 20 percent during the 2011 fiscal year, with Texas ports seeing more contraband than the other three border states.

In all, about 1.5 million pounds of narcotics were seized here, compared with 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 today 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 119,000 in Texas and 129,000 in Arizona. California and New Mexico saw 72,600 and 6,900 apprehensions, respectively.

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,” Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin said in a statement.

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.

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