NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 22, 2006

Beefed-up enforcement at the U.S.-Mexico border since Sept. 11, 2001, has substantially increased the number of arrests of illegal immigrants, but tens of thousands of captured non-Mexicans continue to be released into the United States because there is no place to hold them, according to experts and immigration officials.

A tripling of the arrest rate of non-Mexican border crossers from 2003 to 2005 has overwhelmed immigration courts, and encouraged illegal immigrants, who now only expect a short detention at the U.S. border.

For example:

  • Border Patrol agents released 70 percent of non-Mexicans last year and ordered them to leave the country, only 18 percent do.
  • Once arrested and released, the number of illegal immigrants who failed to appear in court more than tripled from 29,550 in 2003 to 97,868 in 2005.

Among President Bush's and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's attempts to toughen enforcement at the borders and inside the country include:

  • Asking for $858 million for 1,500 new Border Patrol agents -- which would bring the total to 14,000 -- and 6,700 new detention beds, for a total of 27,500.
  • Expanding "expedited removal," a power granted by Congress in 1996, allowing recently arrived non-Mexicans caught within 100 miles of the border to be deported without hearings, unless they seek asylum or cite a fear of persecution.
  • Attempting to lower the average detention from 90 days to as few as 15, thereby removing six times as many people with the same number of beds.

Results so far are mixed. After seven months, apprehensions of non-Mexicans are down 9 percent from the same period last year. About 55,000 people, 74 percent, still are being set free. But the United States completed expedited removal of 19,324 non-Mexicans, more than the 18,730 it removed all of last year.

Source: Spencer S. Hsu, "Non-Mexicans Too Numerous For Border Net," Washington Post, May 15, 2006


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