Desert Invasion - U.S.


Will 'amnesty' talk bring illegal flood? Border agents are bracing for expected surge of immigrants

By Leslie Berestein, San Diego Union-Tribune, November 29, 2004

A renewed focus on immigration reform after the election by the Bush administration is making some Border Patrol agents nervous.

They are worried that misinformation about an "amnesty" program will trickle down to prospective immigrants by word-of-mouth, resulting in a surge in illegal immigration similar to the one noted last spring, after President Bush announced plans for a foreign guest-worker program in January.

Already there have been increases in apprehensions borderwide during this month, compared to the same period a year ago....

In recent weeks, U.S. officials have traveled to Mexico to discuss immigration reform, and illegal immigration dominated talks between Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox last week in Santiago, Chile, during which Bush pledged to move forward on "reasonable immigration policies."

Bush's proposal would grant temporary work visas to foreign workers, including undocumented immigrants [illegal aliens] already working in the United States, provided that a U.S. worker can't be found to fill the job....

Between Nov. 1 and Nov. 23, there were 51,759 apprehensions of undocumented immigrants [illegal aliens] along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to preliminary federal estimates. This is a 14 percent increase over the 45,355 apprehensions during the same period a year ago.

Year-to-date apprehensions for fiscal year 2005, which began Oct. 1, are up 15 percent over the previous year.

Apprehensions were also up in the months after Bush's announcement of the guest-worker proposal in January. During the six-month period that ended March 31, apprehensions jumped 25 percent over the previous year....

The Tucson sector, the nation's busiest, has seen a 15 percent increase in apprehensions this month compared to last November. The Yuma sector has seen a 161 percent increase over a year ago, in part because increased surveillance in Tucson has caused traffic patterns to shift....

Border Patrol union leaders expect to see further increases as well. The holidays are normally considered a slow period for illegal immigration, with the northbound flow picking up after the beginning of the year.

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