Migrant apprehensions down, deaths up
Apprehensions of illegal immigrants along the U.S.-Mexico border have fallen at the same time border deaths have risen, and critics caution that the dip in apprehensions may be temporary.
Apprehensions across the entire border fell 30 percent compared to this time last year, from 440,419 to 311,248. Apprehensions in the Tucson sector fell less, by 13 percent, from 144,415 to 126,220, with certain areas within the sector reporting greater decreases. The reporting period is from Oct. 1 to Feb. 28.
Deaths have increased 27 percent near the entire length of the border, from 90 to 114, and 24 percent in the Border Patrol's Tucson sector, from 33 to 41, since the start of the fiscal year in October. The Tucson sector covers 260 miles of the border.
Agents with Grupo Beta, the Mexican immigrant aid organization, said the number of immigrants crossing through Sasabe, one of the most popular crossing points, has plummeted. In February, Grupo Beta agents counted 13,277 people on their way to the U.S. border, or less than a quarter of the 60,603 people they counted in February 2006. January traffic was down more than 60 percent compared with last year.
Gustavo Soto, a U.S. Border Patrol spokesman, credited the decrease to more agents, National Guard troops and technology.
"We are heading in the right direction," Soto said.
Tomas Jimenez, a research fellow at the University of California-San Diego's Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, disagreed.
Over the past several years, increased border security has contributed to the increase in illegal immigrants living in the United States, he said. Increased security has raised the risk and cost of crossing, encouraging immigrants to settle in the U.S. permanently, he said.
"Border fortification has locked people in, not out," he said.
Raquel Rubio-Goldsmith, a researcher at the University of Arizona who recently released a report on illegal immigrant deaths in Pima County, said she doubted the downturn would be permanent. Immigrants and the smugglers they rely on will find another way through, she said.http://www.tucsoncitizen.com/daily/local/44249.php