- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Department of Homeland Security, facing a flood of illegal aliens from countries other than Mexico, has increased efforts to remove non-Mexican foreign nationals now being released back onto the streets of America because of a lack of detention space.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has ordered that expedited removal proceedings for non-Mexican foreign nationals caught illegally entering the United States be expanded from three to all nine U.S. Border Patrol sectors along the Southwest border.

Mexican nationals caught in the United States illegally are bused back within a few hours, but illegals known as “other than Mexican,” or OTMs, must be flown to their home countries, a process that often takes months.

The new process is aimed at reducing the number of OTMs who have spent less than 14 days in the United States and who are apprehended within 100 miles of the border.

“The use of this authority will allow DHS the ability to gain greater control of our borders and to protect our country against the terrorist threat,” Mr. Chertoff said.

Nearly 70 percent, or 68,000, of the more than 98,000 OTMs detained so far this year were released almost immediately because of the government’s inability to return them to their home country and a lack of detention facilities to hold them while here, federal authorities said.

Federal law-enforcement authorities said thousands of foreign nationals, including a rising number of Brazilians facing high unemployment at home and having access to a growing number of sophisticated alien smuggling rings, are coming into the United States to seek work — then surrendering to authorities after they cross the border because of this country’s inability to detain or deport them.

Border Patrol Chief David V. Aguilar recently told a Senate subcommittee that agents in Texas alone are experiencing a near-threefold increase in the number of OTMs, and there is no place to put them.

“We interdict them, process them and then hand them off,” Chief Aguilar said, noting that detention is the responsibility of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and not his agency. He called the “exponential growth” in the number of OTMs and their subsequent release “a major source of clogging and friction for the removal process.”

Chief Aguilar told the subcommittee that because of a lack of intelligence data, some OTMs released may have been criminals.

The OTMs detained are sent to detention centers, where they are released if they do not have a felony conviction or pose no national security threat. Given a “notice to appear” at a future immigration hearing, only about 13 percent ever show.

Since Sept. 30, nearly 25,000 Brazilian nationals have been detained at the border, mostly in Texas and Arizona. ICE spokesman Dean Boyd said the agency is working with Brazilian authorities to identify and disrupt alien smuggling operations, noting that last week, the two countries arrested 48 persons linked to a Brazil-based smuggling ring — including corrupt Brazilian police and customs officers, and airline employees.

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