Wednesday, May 1, 2013



Note: some very serious doubts about the numbers in this one.

Securing Nogales frontier is key to immigration bill

"Every day, we have a seizure of some kind at this checkpoint," says
Leslie Lawson, patrol agent in charge of the Border Patrol's Nogales
Station. The border fence looms behind her.

15 hours ago • Eric Martin and Amanda J. Crawford Bloomberg News

NOGALES, Sonora - Alejandro Vega hiked five days through the Arizona
desert and then toiled 10 years busing restaurant tables, building
roads and cleaning manure out of horse corrals in the United States
before his deportation in 2009.

Now, facing the southern side of a 20-foot-tall copper-hued fence in
the border city of Nogales, Sonora, he says he's ready to risk prison
or death to get back in.

"I don't care how many times I need to try," said Vega, 38, who in
March scaled the barrier's iron slats and sprinted to a Walmart
parking lot only to be caught and expelled again.

"My life is there - there's nothing for me in Mexico," he said.
"Everything has its risk, but if you never risk, you never gain."

The daily struggle along the rugged Nogales frontier, which the U.S.
government ranks as the highest-risk sector of its border with Mexico
- a region where 120,000 people were caught crossing last year -
points to a security challenge central to enactment of any new
immigration law.

Senators are advancing a bill requiring that the Border Patrol show
"90 percent effectiveness" in securing this and other high-risk
border sectors - areas where more than 30,000 people a year are
caught crossing - before legal rights are conferred on the estimated
11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

The concern about border security, which Republican leaders call
essential to a broader agreement on a path to citizenship for the
undocumented, visas for guest-workers and farmworkers, and other
elements of an immigration law rewrite, has only heightened following
the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings. Two brothers whose family
legally emigrated from Kyrgyzstan to the U.S. a decade ago and sought
political asylum have been identified as the culprits.

"That's the No. 1 criterion," said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. "We want
to treat the eventual problem with real humanity, but before that, we
really do have to secure our border, not just because of the
immigration issue but also just for national security."

In the House, where the immigration bill faces long odds, Judiciary
Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., calls border security "very
crucial" to any plan - "exactly how it works in conjunction with the
rest of immigration reform, it has yet to be decided," he said.

Legislation filed by a bipartisan group of eight senators demands a
border-control plan with fencing and surveillance assuring that 90
percent of those who attempt to cross are caught or turned back to
Mexico in these high-risk sectors before other steps are taken on

There are three such sectors: The area south of Tucson that includes
Nogales; the border near Laredo, Texas; and the Rio Grande River
valley near Brownsville, Texas. The effectiveness of security last
year, according to a Government Accountability Office report based on
Border Patrol data, has ranged from 87 percent in the Tucson Sector
to 71 percent along the Rio Grande.

Senators say this makes the border-security in their plan obtainable,
enabling the government to move forward with citizenship for the
undocumented and other measures.

"The border-security triggers are strong but achievable," Sen.
Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who has visited the Arizona border in
negotiations over the bill, said at an April 18 Washington news
conference announcing it.

In the desert region south of Tucson that alternates between rocky
gulches and 7,000-foot peaks, part of a 262-mile stretch of an almost
2,000-mile-long border, the challenge is spelled out in numbers: In
this sector alone, 124,363 people were caught in 2011, the GAO
reports. That's close to one-third of the 328,000 apprehensions along
the entire Southwest border. Another 43,539 were turned back; an
estimated 25,376 got away.

Manuel Padilla, chief patrol agent of the Tucson Sector, said
calculating the effectiveness rate, which only applies in the border
areas between ports of entry, is "not an exact science."

"In the urban areas, we have a very high effectiveness rate," he
said. "Once you start getting into the rural environment, that's
where it gets more difficult."

"Every day, we have a seizure of some kind at this checkpoint," said
Leslie Lawson, patrol agent in charge of the Nogales Station.

In the desert surrounding the checkpoint, cameras and infrared scopes
detect illicit movement. In the days after footprints and other
evidence of illegal crossing are discovered, agents work to match the
information with the immigrants they apprehend to determine their
effectiveness rate.

Officials in Texas' Rio Grande Valley haven't had as much success in
stemming illegal entries. While they've raised the sector's
effectiveness rate from 55 percent in 2006, it remains the major area
where migrants are most likely to successfully enter the U.S.

"It is doable," said Christopher Wilson, an associate with the
Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center's Mexico Institute. "When I
first saw the 90 percent, that sounded really high to me, but the
reality is, it is within reach."


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