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Smugglers shift tactics at CA ports

Smugglers who sneak illegal immigrants into the United States through California's border crossings have changed their tactics. Federal immigration officials say smugglers have turned away from hiding migrants in vehicles in favor of other methods. KPBS Reporter Amy Isackson has the story.

The number of illegal immigrants caught sneaking through border crossings, while hiding in vehicles has dropped by nearly half in the last year.

Customs and Border Protection Spokesman Vince Bond says his agents caught 36,000 people stitched into car seats or curled up in dashboards in a nine month period ending last June. In the same period this year, that number fell to just 19,000.

Meanwhile, Bond says agents are seeing almost twice as many undocumented immigrants trying to enter the country in plain sight by claiming they are U.S. citizens, without any documents to back that up.

He says the trends go hand in hand.

Bond: "If undocumented immigrants can't get into the United States being smuggled because the risks are too high of being found, then they're going to try this other technique of pretending to be a U.S. citizen.

Smugglers are also crossing in increasing numbers in the no-man's land between the ports of entry in San Diego County.

Bouncing along a dirt road next to the border in Boulevard, Border Patrol agents say apprehensions in Eastern San Diego County have surged by 18-percent this year. However, Agent Gabriel Guerrero says enforcement at the ports is just one of many contributing factors.

A lot of our resources are being sent to the Arizona corridor. So ultimately that could be pushing traffic back into the San Diego Sector.

Federal officials say it's like squeezing a balloon. Apply pressure in one place and it bulges somewhere else. Amy Isackson, KPBS News.

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