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  • 35


     
    Fewer Being Caught Along Border
    Immigration; Posted on: 2007-11-01 12:29:42 [ Printer friendly / Instant flyer ]
    But does decline really mean more illegal immigrants kept from coming?

    By James Pinkerton
    Houston Chronicle

    Apprehensions of illegal immigrants along the Southwest border have dropped 20 percent this past fiscal year, although experts disagree whether the downturn means fewer immigrants are slipping across the U.S. border.

    Some credit stepped-up enforcement along the border for the dramatic decline, while others say a continued slump in the U.S. housing market could have reduced jobs that lure immigrants into the country.

    Meanwhile, law enforcement officials say a tightened border is forcing immigrants to increasingly turn to organized human trafficking rings overseen by powerful Mexican drug cartels.

    There were 858,638 apprehensions on the Southwest border during the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, according to preliminary figures provided by a senior U.S. Border Patrol source who did not want to be identified. In fiscal 2006, agents apprehended 1,071,972 people on the Southwest border.

    "That's impressive," said Doris Meissner, former head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and now a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank. "But it's always hard to know what the reasons are it's usually a combination."

    The official figures are expected to be released today, said assistant Border Patrol chief Ramon Rivera. He did say, however, that the apprehension statistics will show a 20 percent decrease, adding that a number of factors contribute to the decline.

    "It's a combination of things technology, increased manpower, the infrastructure improvements, the assistance from the National Guard," he said. "It's all working together. Everyone is contributing a little bit."

    The Border Patrol has hired thousands of new agents in the past year, while the government has added detention space to house immigrants detained on the border while increasing budgets for security operations. However, the head of the border agents' union said apprehension numbers don't reflect the whole picture.

    "There's no hard evidence the overall traffic has decreased," said T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council.

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    News Source: Houston Chronicle

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