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Chertoff touts progress in slowing illegal immigration

STEPHEN LOSEY | October 31, 2006

The Homeland Security Department is lauding increased deportations of illegal aliens and reduced arrests at the border as proof that its immigration enforcement strategy is starting to yield results.

At a press conference in Washington on Oct. 30, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said that a combination of more Border Patrol agents, assistance from the National Guard, and more efficient deportation of detained aliens is working. Chertoff said improved numbers are proof that his Secure Border Initiative is the right strategy to seal the borders.

But Chertoff cautioned that work has only begun on his border plan. He said it will take many more years to definitively solve the illegal immigration problem.
“The challenge of controlling the border is one that has been with us for 30 years,” Chertoff said. “This is not a problem that’s new, and therefore not a problem that’s going to be solved in 30 minutes or 30 days.”

Chertoff said about 11 million people are believed to be in the United States illegally. Some cross the Southwest border, but many others enter through temporary legal channels and do not leave when they are required.

One major success has been ending the so-called “catch and release” process, Chertoff said. Previously, Homeland Security did not have detention space to house tens of thousands of captured illegal aliens from nations other than Mexico. Many of those aliens were set free with orders to appear before a judge, and they promptly disappeared.

“This pernicious policy was . . . one of the most demoralizing and irritating things to members of the Border Patrol,” Chertoff said.

But a combination of more detention beds and a speedier detention process has allowed Homeland Security to hold on to all detained aliens until they are returned to their country of origin, Chertoff said. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents removed 186,600 illegal aliens from the United States in fiscal 2006, 10 percent more than in the previous year, Homeland Security said.

The Border Patrol now has more than 12,000 agents, about 3,000 more than there were in 2001, Chertoff said. Homeland Security wants to have 18,000 agents by the end of 2008. Those agents have received support from about 6,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen who took over many administrative duties, which let almost 400 agents return to the border and perform law enforcement duties. Chertoff said the Guard’s assistance contributed to a 38 percent decline in apprehensions in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2006, when compared with one year earlier.

The Border Patrol says that a decrease in apprehensions at the border indicates fewer people are trying to cross the border.

The Homeland Security Department also wants to cut down on the demand for illegal labor by prosecuting employers and threatening them with jail time. In fiscal 2006, ICE agents arrested 716 employers for violating illegal labor laws — an increase over 2002, when 25 people were arrested.

Chertoff Touts Lower Illegal Immigration Numbers

FreeMarketNews | November 01, 2006

The Department of Homeland Security has announced that border arrests of illegal immigrants fell 8 percent from last year, after increasing over the last two years. About 1.1 million arrests were conducted in the last year, the Washington Post has reported.

Immigration arrests have been volatile and are heavily dependent on policy. They peaked in 2000 at 1.7 million and dropped to a low of 932,000 in 2003. They rebounded in 2004 and 2005, but now officials are focusing on using policy changes with the goal of reducing arrests further. Prior to 2005 most illegal aliens were released inside the U.S. after being jailed for a short period of time. However, the new policy calls for border patrol to deport illegal immigrants as soon as they are caught trying to cross the border.

President Bush has committed to gaining full control of U.S. borders by 2008, despite skepticism. Especially due to the volatile history of arrests, critics argue that the number of arrests is a poor measurement of real progress in border control or immigration reform and argue that it is too soon to attribute the decline about policy changes.


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