- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 2, 2003

BROWNSVILLE, Texas, Jan. 2 (UPI) — The U.S. Border Patrol is gearing up for an increase in illegal entries from Mexico as undocumented migrants return to the United States for work after holiday trips home, officials said Thursday.

In the McAllen sector in South Texas, illegal entries more than doubled from December to January as illegal traffic increases across the Rio Grande, said Xavier Rios, a supervising senior Border Patrol agent.

"They have either had seasonal work in agriculture or elsewhere and have gone home for the holidays and they are making their trek back north," he said.

A year ago, apprehensions in the sector increased from 3,813 in December 2001 to 8,035 in January of this year, and similar increases have been recorded since 1997. In the same months in 1999 and 2000, the re-entry apprehensions nearly tripled.

In an effort to stem the traffic this year, the patrol is increasing its profile along the border. Officers assigned to special units, such as horse or bike patrols, will be moved to back up line agents, Rio said.

"We want a bigger presence on the border to deter and prevent anybody from coming in," he said. "If they do come in, then we detect them and apprehend them."

The McAllen sector also uses video surveillance cameras with infrared capability and remote seismic sensoring equipment to detect movement along the Rio Grande.

Although illegal migrant traffic increases in the months of January, February and March, overall apprehensions have decreased since Operation Rio Grande was instituted in the McAllen sector in 1997 to stem the tide of illegal immigration from Mexico.

"Our apprehensions have decreased between 15 to 20 percent a year for the last five years since the inception of Operation Rio Grande," he said.

Since 1997, the McAllen sector has increased its manpower and tactical infrastructure almost threefold, which has enabled the patrol to increase pressure on normal routes of illegal immigrants and drug traffic across the border, Rios said.

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