Friday, May 03, 2013

Crackdown on illegal border crossings at barriers, checkpoints chases traffic to rural areas

Rural residents in Texas and Arizona say a government crackdown to stop people from illegally crossing the border through cities and in vehicles has forced armed drug dealers and immigrant smugglers to travel on foot across rural areas instead, making those areas dangerous for U.S. citizens, Mark Potter reports for NBC News. (NBC hidden camera footage was taken on a private ranch in Arizona.)

Jeffrey Self, of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said some barriers and checkpoints have reduced daily undocumented drive-throughs from as many as 50 to zero, Potter reports. ICE claims that as a victory, pointing to counts that show the number of illegal detainees at the border dropped from 1,643,679 in 2000 to 356,873 in 2012. But in places like the Rio Grande Valley, numbers rose 65 percent from 2011 to 2012, from 59,000 to 97,000, and have risen another 55 percent at this point this year, Potter reports.

A U.S. border vehicle barrier in Arizona. (Mark Potter/NBC)
Rural residents are seeing a constant stream of people crossing through their property, Potter reports. One Arizona resident, speaking on the condition anonymity, told Potter, "She fears what she described as an increase in drug and immigrant smugglers crossing her land by day and night," and keeps a gun with her at all times. Texas rancher Linda Vickers said she regularly sees, and often photographs, illegal immigrants cutting across her land as they try to evade agents," often seeing groups of 10 or 20 crossing her property. She said, “In the state of Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, the border is not secure and I don’t think you’ll find a person, a real person, to say it’s secure."

San Juan, Tex., Police Chief Juan Gonzalez told Potter his department has never dealt with so many undocumented immigrants, while Benny Martinez, the chief deputy of the Brooks County Sheriff's Office in Falfurrias, said of illegal crossings, "It hasn’t gone down at all, not here.” (Read more)

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