Desert Invasion - U.S.

Mexico is global turnstile to U.S. - More non-Mexicans are crossing border

By Bruce Finley, Denver Post

U.S. agents along the southwestern border increasingly catch illegal immigrants from throughout the world - not just from Mexico - as they try to slip into the country.

Some come from Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and other countries U.S. officials regard as hotbeds of terrorism. Many more may enter undetected.

New data obtained by The Denver Post show that Border Patrol agents over the past five months caught 46,058 non-Mexican migrants along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, up 12 percent from the 40,953 caught during the same period last year.

Annual apprehensions have increased fivefold since 2002, with 155,000 non-Mexican migrants caught last year, according to government data from congressional and other sources....

There's no way to know how many illegal immigrants enter undetected. The latest estimates based on census surveys show 850,000 people a year enter illegally, more than double the influx in the early 1990s - despite a decade of beefing up border enforcement. [Other sources claim up to 10,000 per day ( ]

Easy path for terrorists...

On the security front, the United States remains vulnerable, despite post-Sept. 11, 2001, efforts, and terrorists easily could infiltrate, said T.J. Bonner, president of the union that represents Border Patrol agents.

The data show "just the ones we catch; a lot of people get by us," Bonner said, estimating that border guards catch 25 percent to 33 percent of illegal border- crossers. "The borders remain out of control." Congress is debating proposals such as deploying hundreds more border guards and using more motion detectors, surveillance cameras and aerial drones, along with allowing more legal foreign workers and possibly granting amnesty to 12 million illegal immigrants already here. [Other sources claim up to 20 million illegal aliens are living in the United States ( ]

But the government already has been increasing the number of Border Patrol agents steadily from 4,000 in 1993 to 11,300 today, and the agency's budget more than tripled from about $380 million to $1.4 billion....

Non-Mexican migrants caught entering the United States illegally in fiscal years 2002 to 2005 came mostly from Central America and Brazil. Also among them were: Iranians (95), Iraqis (74), Pakistanis (660), Syrians (52), Yemenis (40), Egyptians (106) and Lebanese (91).

Those figures cover all ports of entry. Along the southwestern border, non-Mexican migrants caught from 2002 to 2004 - the latest years for which data could be obtained - included Pakistanis (113), Egyptians (41), Jordanians (55), Iranians (39), Iraqis (22), Yemenis (15) and Saudis (13).

They are from among 35 "special-interest" nations the State Department lists as hotbeds for terrorism. U.S. officials increasingly restrict visas for travelers from these nations.

Even when non-Mexican migrants are caught, some are released into the United States with notices to appear in immigration court for lack of jail bed space. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has vowed to end that practice on the southwestern border this year. Immigration authorities are trying to deport non-Mexican migrants more quickly. Mexico refuses to take them back, and U.S. agents must fly them home if their countries will accept them....

Violence is up - attacks on Border Patrol agents topped 700 last year...

Illegal immigrants occupy nearly 5 percent of U.S. jobs, Passell, of the Pew Hispanic Center, found in a new study.

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