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Border & Immigration

Apprehensions Of Migrants Down Along US-Mexico Border


The low numbers seem to indicate that immigration is way down or enforcement is way up. Or both.

Border Apprehensions Drop
Border Apprehensions Drop

Apprehensions of illegal immigrants along the Arizona border are at their lowest point in 17 years, a statistic that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials recently touted in Tucson. In fact, there’s been a massive reduction in illegal immigrant arrests across the entire U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2011, which ended in September.

CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin said Monday the success stems from a Border Patrol that has doubled in size in the past decade. He was also prepared for critics who argue that the poor economy, not law enforcement, deterred illegal immigration.

“Between 2000 and 2008, we had a very robust economy,” Bersin said. “So yes, the economy has an impact, but this is a long-term trend that indicates the enforcement posture is operating at a level never before."

The numbers have been dropping since their height in 2000 when migrants tried to illegally cross the border 1.6 million times. Arizona continues topping the list in the number of apprehensions, a dubious distinction that has held true since 2004.

Customs & Border Protections Statistics For Fiscal Year 2011

Arizona led in apprehensions at the border: 129,118

Texas: 118,911

California: 72,638

New Mexico: 6,910

Total: 327,577

Total number of deportations: 396,906

Nearly 5 million pounds of narcotics were confiscated - about 20 percent higher than Fiscal Year 2010 - and $126 million in undeclared currency was seized.

Source: Dept. of Homeland Security
These border apprehensions have historically been used to calculate the total number of people trying to get across. The low numbers seem to indicate that crossings are way down or enforcement is way up. Or both. Bersin and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano have been touring the border taking credit for these successes since 2009.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, is skeptical of their boasts.

“This is a political question now, where before it used not to be,” Fitton said. “The American people are growing impatient and as a result the (Dept. of Homeland Security) is trying to respond."

The watchdog group has been tracking Homeland Security and how it releases information to the public. He claims the numbers are being carefully managed to deflect criticism that illegal immigration is still not being addressed, especially in an election year.

“So to keep the data away from folks easily and make it go through the national office, frankly, politicizes the disclosure of that information and makes one skeptical that the numbers disseminated in the Arizona sector or elsewhere were scrubbed," Fitton said.

The apprehension numbers also don’t give a full view of who is coming across. DHS has rejected numerous Freedom of Information Act requests for recidivism rates, which is data that tracks how many migrants were arrested over and over again.