By Tim Gaynor
May 30, 2005
EAGLE PASS, Texas (Reuters) - The number of illegal immigrants from Central America and Brazil caught crossing into this Texas border city jumped threefold in the past year as they rush to exploit a legal loophole, U.S. authorities said.
The U.S. Border Patrol has nabbed 15,195 non-Mexican migrants crossing over the Rio Bravo around Eagle Pass in the past eight months, a rise of almost 240 percent on the same period last year, officials said on Monday.
Agents say what they call "OTMs" -- "other than Mexican migrants" -- now account for 90 percent of all migrant detentions in the sweltering trade and ranching hub of 40,000 people. That is up from the 5 percent to 10 percent nationwide normally recorded by the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Officials in Eagle Pass attribute the dramatic spike to news filtering out in countries in Central and South America that U.S. authorities are unable to hold the influx of immigrants [illegal aliens] in swamped local detention facilities....
Whereas Mexican citizens are processed and swiftly deported, non-Mexicans are either detained or let out on bail pending an appearance before an immigration court.
Following a security and criminal background check, those not deemed a security threat or found to have a criminal record, are released with a notice to appear before an immigration judge within 30 days.
The immigration summons, dubbed "the diploma" by local residents in the remote border community, allows them to travel on into the United States legally, crossing Border Patrol road blocks set up to collar illegal migrants in south Texas.
Agents say the rush to reach Eagle Pass has been boosted by good communications links from cities in the Mexican interior, and they say they can time immigrant arrivals from the city of Piedras Negras to the south by using the Mexican bus schedule.
"You see them cross over the river together in a line and come round like a snake to where the (patrol agent's) flash light is ... and just give themselves up," said veteran agent Randy Clark.
Agents say they arrest between 100 and 200 non-Mexican immigrants [illegal aliens] each night, many of them on a golf course in the city center, where they can be easily seen by surveillance cameras.
The flow has increased so much in recent months that the Eagle Pass Border Patrol station brings in a trailer of food for the detainees each day and has built a new administrative module to deal with the processing....