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As Texas' border security efforts succeed, California is ‘new epicenter' of crisis

By Bethany Blankley
The Center Square

With the success of Texas' border security mission Operation Lone Star pushing human trafficking efforts by Mexican cartels further west, southern California is "the new epicenter" of illegal immigration, officials say.

“San Diego is the new epicenter for migrants and illegal immigration,” San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond laments as record numbers of illegal border crossers continue to pour into California. 

Desmond made a similar claim two weeks ago when the county was overwhelmed by thousands of illegal border crossers being dropped off on street corners after a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing center was closed by the Biden administration.

In one day alone last week, Border Patrol agents apprehended 2,000 illegal border crossers in the CBP San Diego Sector, including 206 Chinese nationals, Desmond said. 

California has had the greatest number of Chinese nationals illegally entering the U.S., The Center Square reported. In fiscal 2021, 263 Chinese were apprehended in California. By February 2024 the number skyrocketed to 22,098.

China and the Chinese Communist Party present among the greatest national security threats to the U.S., FBI Director Christopher Wray and other national security experts say.

California has seen an influx in illegal border crossings and illicit drugs pouring through its border from Mexico primarily after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s border security mission Operation Lone Star began closing off major illegal crossing points in Texas, The Center Square first reported. 

Texas has long been the focal point for scouts and coyotes, those working for or with cartels to move people and drugs into the U.S. through specific areas. Texas shares the longest border with Mexico, with 1,254 miles. California shares the smallest portion of 137 miles, nearly evenly split in terms of linear mileage between the CBP El Centro and San Diego sectors.

Despite the significantly shorter border distance, the San Diego Sector is on track to have the greatest number of illegal entries of all nine CBP southwest border sectors this month, reaching numbers not seen since the 1990s. 

“Since October 1, the San Diego Sector has witnessed a staggering 214,855 apprehensions, representing individuals from over 75 countries across the globe,” Desmond said.

In fiscal 2023, there were more than 500,000 illegal border crossers in California, The Center Square exclusively reported; up from nearly 300,000 in fiscal 2022.

In fiscal 2023, San Diego Sector agents reported the fifth-highest number of illegal entries along the southwest border, apprehending 230,941 illegal foreign nationals and reporting at least 97,520 gotaways, The Center Square reported.

By comparison, more than 775,000 people were reported illegally crossing the border into Arizona and over 1.9 million into Texas in fiscal 2023.

Border Patrol agents were directed to drop off 30,000 illegal border crossers in the last two months alone in San Diego County, Desmond said.

Because California Gov. Gavin Newsom hasn’t taken the same approach as Texas, “Human smugglers have identified California, particularly the San Diego border sector, as the path of least resistance for illegal immigration,” Desmond said. “Border Patrol has inadvertently become the 'Uber' for migrants entering San Diego County, and the County is the travel agent.”

Cartels have long had operational control of the border, with the Sinaloa Cartel controlling access into California and dominating the illicit fentanyl industry, law enforcement officials have explained to The Center Square. Those cracking down on cartel-linked crime can trace the fentanyl they seize to operations in California. In one recent undercover operation in Polk County, Florida, the amount of fentanyl seized was enough to kill one-third of Florida’s population. The alleged drug traffickers were arrested in Florida after having driven from California; the fentanyl was illegally brought into California from Mexico and tied to the Sinaloa Cartel, authorities said. 

This month, in a two-week period, CBP San Diego Sector officers seized enough fentanyl to kill 54 million people, enough to wipe out the entire west coast, The Center Square reported.

Earlier this month, San Diego leaders called on state and federal authorities to close the border. They held a news conference on the beach in Carlsbad, near where illegal border crossers drove boats onto the beach. Groups of what appear to be single military age men jumped out of the boats and ran into the local neighborhoods in broad daylight, OKC Fox News 25 reported.

“Since 2020, we’ve seen a 139% increase in maritime human smuggling,” Desmond said, with three to four boats arriving a week. None of them are vetted. Authorities have no idea who they are, where they came from, or where they are. 

California policies are facilitating the crisis, he added. “The state of California gives free health care to illegal immigrants. The County of San Diego gives free legal defense to those here illegally no matter what crime they commit. Being a sanctuary state, law enforcement officers are not allowed to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. So even if these people were arrested by the Carlsbad Police Department they could not turn these people over to ICE or Border Patrol.

“We’re seeing the fact that other states have made major increases in the amount of security along the border,” he said, indicating that illegal border crossing activity “has switched over to San Diego.”

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