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Immigrant arrests down at border; cause remains contoversial

The U.S. government says the number of arrests of illegal immigrants has fallen significantly in the past two months since President Bush ordered National Guard troops to help secure the U.S.-Mexico border. Border Patrol officials say the military presence is helping them gain control of the border. But critics say such claims are premature. KPBS Reporter Amy Isackson has details.

Border Patrol officials say apprehensions of illegal immigrants have dropped 45 percent since President Bush announced plans to send 6,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico Border.

Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar credits the dramatic drop to the extra "eyes and ears" of the National Guard. Though, he concedes some of the decrease is seasonal because illegal traffic traditionally slows this time of year.

Wayne Cornelius, who directs the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UCSD says not only are the Border Patrol's numbers misleading

Cornelius: "They're focusing on a two month slice of the fiscal year. During the entire fiscal year to date, apprehensions have only fallen by 2 percent."

Cornelius also says attributing the two month drop to increased enforcement is too simplistic. He says the economy, smuggler's tactics and record-breaking summer temperatures are at play.

TJ Bonner, President of the National Border Patrol Union, says political heat is also motivating the Border Patrol's claims.

Bonner: "The President wants to convince the American public that his solution is actually working when, in fact, it's having very minimal impact."

Bonner says apprehensions of illegal immigrants are on track to be about the same as they were last year. Amy Isackson, KPBS news.

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