- The Washington Times - Monday, July 9, 2007

The number of illegal aliens caught trying to cross the Mexican border into the United States is down 24 percent compared with the previous year, indicating that increased border security efforts are beginning to pay off, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

“We are continuing to develop and add the resources we need to gain effective control of the border. And we are beginning to see a difference,” said CBP spokesman Michael Friel. “Cross-border activity has declined with the addition of agents and added technology. Combined with the deployment of 6,000 National Guard troops on the border, that deterrence effect has taken place.”

From Oct. 1 through June 30, U.S. Border Patrol agents made 682,468 apprehensions of illegal aliens along the nation’s southern border compared with 894,496 during the same period last year.

At the same time, the amount of drugs captured along the border increased, Mr. Friel said, with Border Patrol agents seizing more than 1.47 million pounds of marijuana (a 27 percent increase) and 9,514 pounds of cocaine (a 22 percent increase) compared with the same period in fiscal year 2006 along the southwest border from Oct. 1 to June 30.

Mr. Friel said the Yuma, Ariz., and Del Rio, Texas, sectors experienced the greatest declines, with decreases of 68 percent and 51 percent with 34,140 and 18,286 apprehensions, respectively. He said the number of other-than-Mexican alien apprehensions dropped 48 percent along the southern border, which totaled 43,135 through the third quarter of 2007.

The decrease in other-than-Mexican apprehensions strengthens border security, Mr. Friel said, by reducing the time agents spend transporting and processing, and increasing their time spent patrolling the border.

Under the Secure Border Initiative, CBP continues to enhance border security through what Mr. Friel described as a “comprehensive approach of implementing innovative programs” to include the expansion of expedited removal, Operation Streamline and Operation Jump Start as well as hiring additional Border Patrol agents, up to 6,000 by the end of 2008.

The integration of proven technology, tactical infrastructure and CBP’s increased ability to detain other-than-Mexicans, provides Border Patrol agents additional tools that support the border security mission, he said.

Operation Jump Start was announced last July by President Bush and involves the deployment of 6,000 National Guard troops on the Mexican border from Texas to California. The $770 million program is designed to free up Border Patrol agents for expanded protection along the 1,951-mile Southwest border.

The National Guard troops are assigned to build additional roads and fences, add cameras and sensors, conduct aerial reconnaissance and provide medical aid and communications support. They also perform administrative duties, gather intelligence from border cameras for agents to act on, assist at highway checkpoints and serve on entry-identification teams.

The operation is expected to give the Border Patrol time to recruit and train 6,000 new agents and bring its field strength to 18,000.

The Secure Border Initiative was designed to enable the Border Patrol and other elements of CBP to gain operational control of the Northern and Southern borders. Its major elements include more agents to patrol the borders, secure ports of entry and enforce immigration law; expanded and more efficient detention and removal capabilities; and a comprehensive upgrading of border technology.

Operation Streamline targets for prosecution those who enter the United States through a high-traffic area within the Del Rio Border Patrol Sector in violation of law. It includes the Border Patrol, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Detention and Removal, Federal Pre-trial Services, U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service.

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