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          Front Page




Apprehensions Up by Nearly 30 Percent

By Rene Romo
Journal Southern Bureau
    LAS CRUCES— The number of undocumented immigrants picked up by Border Patrol agents in the El Paso sector, which includes all of New Mexico's border with Mexico, has jumped nearly 30 percent.
    Border Patrol agents apprehended 69,300 undocumented immigrants in the first six months of the fiscal year— an increase of 29.6 percent from the same period in the previous fiscal year.
    The Deming station— the sector's busiest Border Patrol station— reached an all-time record for immigrant apprehensions in March, said Rick Moody, the station's agent-in-charge.
    As of Thursday, agents in the Deming station had picked up more than 6,400 undocumented immigrants— an average of 213 per day. One year ago, in March 2005, Deming agents apprehended about 4,200 immigrants. The station's previous monthly record for apprehensions was a little more than 5,000, Moody said.
    The sector-wide boost in apprehensions is attributable mostly to two factors, Moody said.
    First, New Mexico's border is receiving the spillover from Arizona, where immigrants push in at the highest rates along the Southwest border and where the Border Patrol has concentrated resources over the last year.
    Second, the El Paso sector has seen its own resources bolstered, which has improved agents' ability to nab illegal immigrants.
    "Not only the technology and infrastructure, but manpower. It's a combination of all the assets that we are bringing to the Southwest border," said Maria Valencia, a Border Patrol spokeswoman in Washington, D.C. "We are just putting more emphasis on the Southwest border."
    At a time when immigration reform and border security are the subjects of emotional debate in Washington, D.C., the number of undocumented immigrants apprehended along the Southwest border, from California to Texas, has grown 10 percent this fiscal year compared with the same six months in the previous year, Valencia said.
    About 589,000 undocumented immigrants have been picked up along the Southwest border so far this fiscal year.
    Moody said that he expects to oversee about 270 agents by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. A year ago, about 100 agents worked out of the Deming station.
    The agents are aided by nearly round-the-clock air support, more mobile surveillance cameras and additional vehicle barriers along the border that have made it harder for smugglers and immigrants to simply drive across unprotected stretches of desert.


E-MAIL writer Rene Romo