Archive for Sunday, August 12, 2007

Illegal immigration dropping sharply along U.S.-Mexico border

August 12, 2007

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A man, left, waits to see a doctor as others eat dinner at the Casa del Migrante shelter for migrants July 30 in Tijuana, Mexico. The crackdown on undocumented workers, increased border security and growing U.S. hostilities toward the country's immigrant population has begun to show that Mexicans are increasingly giving up on the American dream and staying home.

A man, left, waits to see a doctor as others eat dinner at the Casa del Migrante shelter for migrants July 30 in Tijuana, Mexico. The crackdown on undocumented workers, increased border security and growing U.S. hostilities toward the country's immigrant population has begun to show that Mexicans are increasingly giving up on the American dream and staying home.

— Mexican shelters, usually the last stop for northbound migrants, are filling with southbound deportees. Fewer migrants are crossing in the wind-swept deserts along an increasingly fortified border. Far to the north, fields are empty at harvest time as workplace raids become more common.

Mexicans are increasingly giving up on the American dream and staying home, and the federal crackdown on undocumented workers announced Friday should discourage even potential migrants from taking the risks as the United States purges itself of its illegal population.

U.S. border agents detained 55,545 illegal migrants jumping over border walls, walking through the desert and swimming across the Rio Grande River between October and June. That's down 38 percent for the entire border compared to the same period a year before.

U.S. and Mexican officials say increased border security, including 6,000 National Guard troops, remote surveillance technology and drone planes, have thwarted smugglers who had succeeded for years at beating the system.

Migrants also say they feel Americans are increasingly hostile toward immigrants.

"It's the discrimination," said 28-year-old George Guevara, who was deported to Tijuana last month after living in the U.S. for 18 years. "It's making people step back. It's just too much of a risk. It's better to be out here."

Guevara, who speaks perfect English and has only distant memories of Mexico, was living at a Tijuana migrant shelter filled with deportees, many of whom are Mexican-born but find themselves in a country that is foreign to them.

"I barely remember living here," Guevara said. "But I see this as an opportunity. I'm going to go back to Guadalajara to see my family and forget what happened."

While some migrants try to set up new lives, others are caught between two worlds. Salvador Perez still has a pregnant wife and three small children in Bakersfield, Calif., where he worked on a pistachio ranch before he was deported. He's tried to cross the rocky, snake-infested mountains near Tecate three times this summer to get back to them, but failed each time.

"I want to try again, but I'm scared something will happen," Perez said.

The biggest drop in Border Patrol detentions - a 68 percent decrease - was in the remote, heat-seared desert surrounding Yuma, Ariz., once popular with smugglers. Border Patrol spokesman Jeremy Chappell credits the additional troops and tougher security.

"Where an alien before was able to sneak across, now he has the National Guard watching him," Chappell said.

The only area that has seen an increase - 1.5 percent - is the San Diego sector, which runs along the California border and includes the harsh, roadless desert surrounding Tecate. The Border Patrol has responded with helicopters and increased intelligence from detained migrants.

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