ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The number of illegal immigrants apprehended along the Mexico-New Mexico border is expected to drop again and is following a steep decline that began five years ago, according to officials at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The fiscal year ending Oct. 1 will see another big decrease from the prior year and is likely a result of more border patrol agents and new technology infrastructure, said agency spokesman Doug Mosier.
Mosier said the arrests are a 90 percent drop from five years ago in the El Paso sector, which covers New Mexico and two Texas counties. He said in the early 1990s the sector was sometimes experiencing 1,000 apprehensions a day. Today, that number is around 20 to 30 a day, he said.
“We have better systems in place…new agents and new technology that are helping,” said Mosier. “We are trying to remain proactive.”
Final apprehension numbers are expected to be released after the fiscal year.
Last year, Randy Hill, chief of the U.S. Border Patrol’s El Paso sector, said officers apprehended 7,800 immigrants during the 2009-2010 fiscal year in New Mexico. More than 76,000 immigrants were arrested in New Mexico during the 2004-05 fiscal year.
Hill said last year that officials acknowledged that slightly less than three-quarters of the sector’s 268 miles of border are considered “under control” by Border Patrol standards.
Cristina Parker, a spokeswoman for the Border Network for Human Rights, an immigrant advocacy group based in El Paso, Texas, said she feared that the drop in apprehensions showed that would-be immigrants are foregoing trying to cross through urban areas for remote, deadly terrains.
“I think people are now opting to cross through dangerous areas and we are seeing more migrant deaths,” said Parker. “That’s what these numbers don’t show.”
The group opened a new office in Anthony, N.M. on Friday aimed at helping immigrants with civil rights and advocacy issues.
News of the latest apprehension numbers comes as the U.S. Border Patrol plans to build an Animas Valley forward operating base despite objections by some ranchers over the location. The Hidalgo County ranchers say the agency’s preferred site is hard to see and won’t serve as a deterrent for those trying to cross into the U.S. illegally or trafficking drugs. They want the site built 13 miles away and want it more visible.
An environmental review says the base, regardless of which site is selected, will hold a heliport, horse corrals and modular buildings capable of housing up to 16 federal agents, who’ll stay for short-term spans.