Bush 'amnesty' blamed for rise in illegals

by Stephen Dinan, April 16, 2004, published in The Washington Times

The number of illegal aliens being apprehended on the southwestern border has jumped 25 percent in the first three months of 2004 compared with last year, and some are blaming President Bush's immigration proposal in January for enticing immigrants across the border.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell you the president's speech was the catalyst for lots of folks to make their way north and try to get into this country in order to get what they accurately believe to be amnesty," said Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican and chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus.

The increase in apprehensions was driven by a spike within the two Arizona sectors, Yuma and Tucson, which saw increases of 60 percent and 51 percent, respectively.

And if apprehensions are increasing, so is the number of illegal aliens making it across the border freely, said Mr. Tancredo and current and former immigration law-enforcement officials, who said they assume for every one person caught, three make it across safely...

In the Yuma sector, for example, apprehensions jumped 114 percent from December 2002 to January 2003. But this past year, they jumped 222 percent from December to January.

For the three-month period overall, six of the nine southwestern sectors saw increases when compared with 2003, and three sectors saw decreases, including a 28 percent decrease from 37,297 to 26,999 in the El Centro sector in California.

The jump also has been sustained for the first three months. In Tucson, the busiest sector, 248,645 immigrants were apprehended from Jan. 1 through Wednesday, a 53 percent increase over the same period last year.

Mario Villarreal, spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington, D.C., didn't return a call for comment on the numbers...

In mid-March the Department of Homeland Security announced new resources to patrol the Arizona border, including 60 temporary search-and-rescue agents, 200 permanent agents, $4 million for use of unmanned aerial vehicles, and $1 million in new sensors to detect illegal aliens crossing...

"The current expectation is we have a soft spot [in Texas] in the Del Rio-Presidio area," [Kathleen Walker] said. "That's supposed to be another site now where we're expecting higher numbers of people moving from the Arizona area."

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