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U.S. Border Patrol changes tactics against illegal immigrants

The Americas Post - Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher speaks to congress. Photo Credit: CBP

The U.S. Border Patrol is preparing to implement tougher punishments on undocumented immigrants entering the United States from Mexico, to change the revolving door policy that has been in place for years.

Instead of simply being sent back across the border to try again, immigrants captured on the U.S. side will now face harsher consequences for illegal entry.  These range from inconveniences like being bused hundreds of miles away to distant border crossings, to aggressive prosecution for criminal offenses in the United States or by Mexican authorities upon their return.

Young, first-time illegal aliens may be allowed a “voluntary return” option without facing criminal consequences.   Repeat offenders and smugglers, however, will be singled out for felony prosecution in the United States.

The U.S. Border Patrol is more able to develop such individualized sanctions now that the number of illegal entries has fallen sharply,  from 1.6 million in 2000 to only 327,577 last year.  At the same time, the Border Patrol has grown to 21,000 agents with 652 miles of pedestrian fencing and vehicle barriers in place at busy crossing points.

The new approach will “break the smuggling cycle and deter a subject from attempting further illegal entries or participating in a smuggling enterprise” by imposing “ideal consequences to impede and deter further illegal activity,” according to U.S. Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher.

A test program in the Tucson sector has already dramatically lowered the number of illegal immigrants released to Mexico without administrative or criminal penalties, says Border Patrol Tucson sector chief Rick Barlow.   Approximately 85 percent of illegal immigrants arrested on the U.S. side of the border were returned to Mexico without any penalty three years ago.  That figure has now been reduced to around just 10 percent of detainees.

The customized consequences are more expensive, the Border Patrol’s chief has admitted in testimony before Congress.   Lawmakers on Capitol Hill, however, have promised their budgetary support to meet the additional costs.