Desert Invasion - U.S.


Arrests of illegal immigrants with criminal records soars in Arizona

by Sheryl Kornman
Tucson Citizen
November 12, 2004

The number of "criminal" illegal immigrants caught in the Tucson sector more than tripled in fiscal year 2004, the agency said.

Expanded access to fingerprint and FBI databases accounts for much of the increase, said Border Patrol spokeswoman Andrea Zortman. Agents can now check prints from any finger at any Border Patrol station.

In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, some 14,506 criminal illegal immigrants - those who have been convicted of crimes or who authorities are seeking in open criminal cases - were arrested in the Tucson sector. That's an increase of 260 percent.

Immigration offenses - applied only to those who have been formally deported and forbidden from re-entering the United States - are listed as the most common infraction, with 7,861 arrests.

Most repeat illegal immigrants are simply returned to Mexico, not deported. Deportees typically are criminals who have finished serving sentences in U.S. prisons and are formally barred from re-entry.

In earlier years, Border Patrol agents had access to a fingerprint system that used just two fingerprints - the right and left index finger - and a database that did not include FBI criminal files.

Beginning in May 2004, agents throughout the Tucson sector were able to tap into the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. ...

In 1996, the U.S. government began to call deportation "removal," Zortman said.

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